Old School Vibe in a New School Time – Phish and The Worcester Centrum

For our first indoor arena on the Venue Project we come to the wonderful Worcester Centrum, now known by its corporate moniker, The DCU Center. This venue holds sway not just for Phish but also for other music acts going all the way back to the first event here, a concert by none other than Frank Sinatra. Just to name a few, U2 had their first stadium show in the US here back in 1983, the Grateful Dead played twelve shows between 1983 and 1988 (before getting banned…), Boston had a nine night stand drawing over 100,000 big haired fans in 1987, Neil Diamond played a record 21 shows (Phish is closing in at 16!), and Dave Matthews apparently played some legendary pair of shows with Bela Fleck supporting in 1998. No matter what type of recreational past time you enjoy, there’s a good chance you can catch a version of it at the Centrum and musically that holds true as artists (and “artists”) of all kinds have played here over the years. For Phish fans in and around New England this place became one of the can’t miss venues on the touring circuit, usually good for at least a pair of shows in a place where the band played with ease and comfort while the crowd enjoyed the classically ‘dirty’ shakedown lot scene and general orneriness of interacting with the locals. In an effort to be transparent, I live about ten minutes from this venue and therefore hold it quite dearly. Expect fluffing.

 

Phish has played the Worcester Centrum sixteen times with the first show being the grand New Year’s Eve celebration from 12.31.1993 and the last to date being the second night of a pair on the Fall 2013 Tour. After that first time here the band has played at least two nights with the exception of their visit during the whirlwind Winter 2003 run including two highly memorable three night runs here over Thanksgiving weekends in 1997 and 1998.

 

Here is you www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Worcester Jams. Note that the famed Worcester Jim has entries for both the full thing as well as smaller chunks for each of the different sections of that epic in case you want a more manageable dose there.

 

12.31.1993  When your first time playing a venue is New Year’s Eve, you go big. Add on the fact that this was a band on the rise playing their first big time NYE Run (prior year’s runs were a much smaller affair) and you have the recipe for some serious heat which is exactly what the band brought that night. Coming off a lengthy break after a heavily front loaded year that saw a full, two legged spring tour (half of which we began this here blog by reviewing) followed by a summer with some H.O.R.D.E. sets mixed in with one of the famed months in the band’s history (August as if I have to mention it) Phish had made their way up the East Coast with a four show run that started in Washington, DC before three New England shows in New Haven, CT (their first in the big old Veterans Memorial Coliseum), Portland, ME (their second show here and first full show after a single set H.O.R.D.E. appearance in summer 1992), and here in Worcester culminated the year for the band. For each show of the run the stage was decorated to look like we the crowd were peering into a demented fish tank and that would make a lot more sense the next year when the band released their first – and only- music video ever for the big single off of Hoist, Down with Disease (more on that song in a bit). This is a very highly regarded show in the fanbase, one that many consider canon and for good reason. From the start of the show opening Llama you can hear the energy from both band and fans alike threatening to blow the roof off the room before they even get warmed up. Pretty much everything they play in this show is nailed though obviously some things stand out more than others like the crisp takes on Stash, Reba, and Lope in the 1st set or the raging Tweezer and Peaches tease-filled Ice and Possum from the 2nd set. The context there is that this run was the first set of shows the band had played since the passing of Frank Zappa a few weeks earlier, resulting in numerous Peaches teases throughout the shows as well as the song being played on three out of the four nights (there are other songs that got repeated in the run like Hood and Possum but that was more a factor of the limitations of their catalog at the time than anything). The third set is the template for how Phish would manage New Year’s shows in the future with a post Auld Lang Syne jam celebrating the new year as they open up into a jam-filled run of songs to ring in the proceedings. This night got brand spanking new music with the then unnamed but soon to be well loved Down With Disease jam (just the riffs, no lyrics, ma’am) which gave way to a smoking, tight Melt. The rest of the set is party time Phish culminating with a Hood that has long been a favorite of many a fan with some still considering it their finest pure, straight ahead version of the song ever. It is a perfect cap to this celebration and quite the jam to inaugurate this venue into Phish lore.

12.28.1995  Two years later Phish returned for more of that New Year’s Run goodness, this time playing the first two shows of the now traditional four night run before heading down to MSG for a pair of shows that were kinda pretty amazing. Warming up for that here in Worcester, the band came in hot on the heels of the legendary Fall 1995 Tour which peaked during its final month only a short nine days ahead of these shows. That results in a well polished band plying their trade rather than spending a show or two shaking off the rust. The fruits of that show from the start as they open with Melt for one of only nine times ever in the 312 performances of the song. The rest of the first set is just your typical for the time nailed fare with the fun of the PA going out during Rift being the only true notable somewhat unique feature because, c’mon, having Page sing the iconic “and silence contagious…” line at that moment is almost too convenient, eh? The second set, however, goes left in a hurry as after the Audience Chess Move they open with a dark, punishing Timber Ho! featuring a lot of big time Fish fills that slides into a raging Theme that Trey dominates. After some more evil Phish with Wilson>Buried Alive they drop into Tweezer which is in the vein of many of the classic Summer/Fall ’95 Tweezer jams which is to say that that shit is dark, yo. If you aren’t hip to the Fall ’95 jam template this is a good example of the mindfuckery we got nightly. There’s a bit in here that will be resolved in the next night’s show as Mike “practices” some of what goes down in the Bass Duet jam with his teacher Jim Stinnett but we’ll leave that for the next one down. Eventually this Tweezer morphs into a full segue to IDK where Fish takes up the trombone in the exhale of the set as they drop a late Uncle Pen and then we breathe deep again for a soaring yet also quite dissonant Slave closer. This is the type of show to kick off a NYE Run, Phish. Don’t forget that a few weeks from now…

12.29.1995  Night two on the 1995 run here in Worcester starts with a run of six songs strung together before the band takes a moment to rest. In there we get a compact Disease and one of those Taste That Surrounds that lived in the space between when Fog That Surrounds eventually became Taste. The Stash is really where things get going in earnest as they build tension with a staccato-filled jam that stays at home in the song but comes to a massive peak complete with a nice held note by Trey before they wrap around to the final round of ‘maybe so or maybe not’. The remainder of the set is raucous fun with Fluffhead and Llama before the a cappella Adeline closer cools things down a tad for intermission. Our second set starts with one of seven ever Makisupas, eventually dropping into a feedback-heavy, ambient-ish jam that melts into Page hitting the organ for the start of CTB. After that we get the always welcome second set Gin. This one is a rager from the start as Trey picks his path, navigating through the Gin theme as Page throws in his grand piano stylings. Almost suddenly, at around the 7:50 mark, Trey starts repeating a quick phrase that settles the band into a fast paced groove that Trey starts soloing over delicately. Fish is pounding away here as it evolves away from Gin into a recognizable tune, particularly if you had been around that Fall for, oh I don’t know, a certain Halloween performance? Once Trey plays the tell tale chords it is clear they are playing The Real Me to the delight of the fans. Trey’s worn out vocal cords from the prolonged tour are evident here but this rocks hard before they seamlessly come back to the Gin close which in turn segues right to a solid take on the classic McGrupp. Then, following a fun BBFCFM and as hinted to above Mike’s old bass instructor Jim Stinnett comes out for a bass jam that has some classical elements some may recognize. As the rest of the band rejoins Trey pushes it into La Grange and on to the end of set fun numbers. This show is known for the “Real Gin” but don’t sleep on the Stash and McGrupp here or that bass jam which is a unique sit-in to say the least.

11.28.1997  After skipping a visit in 1996 Phish returned for a Thanksgiving Weekend Run, giving us an excuse to dance off the holiday meal with three heaters in the ol’ sweatbox. A Curtain opener is always a good sign especially when the dance partner is a big time funky YEM. They forego the VJ for IDK and then tear through Maze as they do ahead of the piss break midset Farmhouse. The funk comes back in spades with our now defunct friend BEK (okay, sure, it’s now Moma but that’s not nearly the same is it?) and then the set concludes with one of three ever Theme>Rocky Top combos (a bit of an odd pairing if I do say so myself). This is a quality first set which was kind of the norm that tour but still only a taste of what they were about to throw down. First up is another set opening Timber Ho! which again delights with that dark magic. Next they go for the peaks with LxL which they follow up with a super peaky Slave that lands in Ghost. Now, Fall ’97 is a great tour for Ghost as they had settled into a comfortable way of attacking the jam after its debut that summer and this version is definitely a keeper. It is a clinic in cowfunk with everyone on board, compin’, clavin’, bassin’, and beatin’ into an infectious groove accented by a laser loop track. Trey resets the groove with a common comp phrase he employed back then (Mike’s *ting* shows his approval) and then they take off again as Trey alternates between lead and follow with Mike *ting*ing along as they drop into a sparse section that just begs to blow up for the final peak, which it does as Trey repeats the same, familiar lick over and over with ever increasing intensity and the band swells to the… ugh. really? so much potential for the release here and they drop into Johnny B. Goode. Oi. Not what I would have called there but then again I’m not exactly too handy with the musical creation thing like our friends up on stage, am I? Eh, after that hot set I’m not going to let a rocking fist pumper closer ruin it for me. Fun show, let’s do it again tomorrow.

11.29.1997  The middle night of a three night run that falls over a weekend generally means you get the SNS show here, one with a bunch of fun rockers and type I jams but not much in the way of otherworldly exploration. Well, that’s not where this one goes which should have been evident from the start of the Wedge opener considering it was only the 2nd ever show opening Wedge at the time (Great Went day two being the other) and still one of only five ever. Then there’s a punchy fun romp through Foam before the set slides into song mode for a few bustouts (TMWSIY>AM>TMWSIY after 67 shows and Sloth after 55) and caps with a slow burning, better than you remember Bowie. This is all appetizer though because what goes down next is still unmatched and probably will forever be so within the construct of a ‘traditional’ Phish set. Over the years, Phish has played the song Runaway Jim 377 times with versions ranging from the straight forward road song variety to longer, chugging jam vehicles that stretch well beyond the confines of the song structure (much like Jim’s wanderings…). On this night in Worcester Phish laid down the single longest single song jam ever with a Jim that comes in just a minute or three under the one hour mark. Now, depending on your favorite species of Phish jam this one may lose you in places but there really is something for everyone to be found in the “Jim Symphony” that moves through several distinct sections without ever falling apart. There are several teases, a full-on Paug jam, and more to be found here, enough that it may take repeated listens to fully grasp all that they packed into it. I know a couple of people who had that as their first show and let’s just say they were NOT prepared for that level of immersion into Phish. Perhaps sensing this unease, the band drifts into the start of Strange Design in the wake of The Jim then backed that up with a soul affirming Hood and eventually a mini bustout of Suzy (of all songs!) after 49 shows on the bench. Then for good measure there is a unique triple combo of Buffalo Bill, Moby Dick>Fire including Trey playing on The Song Remains the Same intro for the 435 show bustout in the middle there. This show is justifiably known for The Jim but giving it a full spin might surprise you with how complete it is even with that biggie in the middle.

11.30.1997  For the Sunday show capping this run before the quick turnaround to get down to Philly to sing the national anthem on Monday one could have excused the band if they wanted to play it safe after that big without a net type endeavor the night before. But that’s not what Phish does now is it? Again we get a rare opener with Guyute doing that for the first time ever here (and one of only four all time in 124 performances of the song). A not so standard Funky Bitch keeps em grooving next and then Wolfman’s in the three slot goes plaid in the best way. This is a second set hide-under-your-chair multi-themed thirty minute beast placed a mere twenty-five minutes into the show, well ahead of the schedule most of the trippers had planned for this evening. The jam heads into devilish territory with some Esther and Sanity lyric/music quotes before the band deftly throws a curveball in by seguing to the Elvis Presley classic Love Me, a Mike-sung tune we discussed back on the Fall ’98 tour. This is the last of the seven 1997 versions before it went unplayed until the following Fall and was eventually shelved. So as to not front load this show too much the band drops a hose-filled Stash in the two slot of the second set, taking the song out for a long, enjoyable ride before going unfinished into an arena-sized Free which is to say it rocks hard if not for a very long time. Without ever fully letting up on the sustain Trey then moves into soundscape building as the other players join in to create an ambient jam that feels more at home in 1999 or 2000 than here in the cowfunk days but I guess you gotta start somewhere. It provides a nice bridge to the slow build Piper that follows and something of a respite after that Stash->Free combo. After the expected Lope to close the set we get the one and only performance of Them Changes, the Buddy Miles tune from the album of the same name that also showed up on the Band of Gypsys album from the same year (1970). An interesting one off choice, it would be nice to hear why they played it then and never again.

11.27.1998  A year later the band was back again for another post-Turkey Time three pack of shows, ones that we have covered here previously. The first night is a quite well known show what with it being included in the first set of LivePhish releases. I won’t rehash my previous posts here (too much) but for this show the meat is definitely packed into the second set (even if the song Meat appeared in the first). The Reba and BOAF in the first are highlights but mainly serve to whet our appetite for the Dagwood set to come. If that reference is lost on you, go brush up on your Blondie cartoons a bit and maybe you’ll get it? Anyway, after Buried Alive the band drops a few rounds of Wipeout, the classic surf rock song by the Surfaris (get it???) that should not be confused with the oh-so-80s Beach Boys/Fat Boys joint of the same name. Bits of the 722 show bustout will pepper the set including in the middle of Weekapaug and to cap the Golgi encore but that’s not the only reason this set holds sway in the fanbase. The Chalkdust includes the debut and one time performance of the English Beat’s Mirror in the Bathroom and a return for Dog Log after its last appearance in the wake of The Riverport Gin amongst the frenetic shredding and boisterous energy from the band. Sanity and Buffalo Bill show up after the Chalkdust and then we get an almost-not-quite “traditional” Mike’s Groove since H2 comes back after a 68 show absence. Then following that Wipeout Paug fun they head out into the bliss of the type of ambient jam that Fall 1998 was known for before capping the set with a rousing Lope closer. We’ve talked about the uniqueness of seguefest shows before so I won’t dive back into that but let’s just say that this is definitely a case where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

11.28.1998  While this middle night was probably never going to live up to the legend of the one from the year before it holds its own as a solid if not great show that is a good example of what they were accomplishing that tour. The first set is anchored by (again!) the first ever Gumbo opener (only three ever there and the other two are in 3.0) which includes a nice if not extended jam, a compact but dangerous Disease, a crisp run through Foam, and a Melt that breeds hope for the second set to come. On paper this second set doesn’t look like a can’t miss winner but there’s a lot to be found here. The Wolfman’s>Timber Ho! combo has a dark, ambient vibe that Page counterpoints with bright piano fills and the Mule has some unique dueling including Mike putting the viking helmet on as he battles Fish but then the Caspian surprises with the power that the song can hold as Trey takes charge with his end solo. Then there’s a Crossroads bustout (64 shows) before a late set Tweezer that while not as expansive as we might want chugs through some interesting sections before suddenly ending for the Cavern closer. As I said above, this is not a ‘canon’ worthy show but there sure aren’t any low lights to worry about either.

11.29.1998  So then we have the final show of the 1998 Turkey Run which also happened to be the tour closer that Fall. For the third night in a row we have a first time opener, this time the Josh White ditty Paul and Silas complete with alternate lyrics to reference Paul Languedoc’s arrest the night before for not wanting to leave the hotel bar in a timely manner. This first set also has a soaring Theme and a unique LxL->Catapult->Kung>Maze section that delights the bustout junkies and setlist mavens. For the end of set the band welcomes Seth Yacavone (see the post on this show from the Fall ’98 reviews for more detail on him) for his song All The Pain Through the Years and the only ever cover of Layla. Those are fine enough but this isn’t the best sit-in ever even if they were giving some free pub to another Burlington dude. That said, Seth shreds so if you ever get the chance check his band out. In the second set there is a Simple that goes ambient but in a dark and dissonant way instead of the typical blissy bright feel and then peters out to Makisupa where we get more digs at the expense of Paul followed by the typical ambient dub mini-jam the song often gets. The Possum that follows goes fully into Wipeout before coming back and then we get one last airy vehicle with the late set Gin. This is a keeper and one that encapsulates the tour sound well before the band wraps things up with a powerful YEM and move into the encores. It is hard to say that any of the final two shows can live up to the fun and uniqueness of the first night of this run but in terms of open jamming this one is the big dog for the year at Worcester.

02.26.2003  During the post-Hiatus Winter 2003 Run Phish played the Centrum for the third to last show of that tour. After a telling tease of Call to Post at the outset they were off running into YEM for only the 11th ever show opening version of the song (and first since 1997) with the 12th (and last to date) occurring later that year at Shoreline. This is a bombastic version of the classic with the crowd erupting at several points to voice their approval for the return of the band to New England after Hiatus. Then the set takes on a “What I Did on Summer Vacation” vibe (not my line but I like it) as first we get the Mike/Leo Kottke tune Clone (which had you been listening closely was quoted by Trey in the YEM VJ), then later the TAB tune Drifting, Pork Tornado’s Blue Skies, and Vida Blue’s Final Flight with a really uplifting Roggae and big time funky Moma interspersed before a punchy Maze closer. If you aren’t familiar with these side project bands and/or songs, check out the Phish versions which are fun interpretations if perhaps not 100% faithful and then go spin the originals. Sadly none of these has ever graced the Phish stage again but it was a neat thing to hear the band mix these tunes in with some high quality ‘standard’ fare. The second set starts out with a long run through Stash, one that benefits from the 2.0 sound as they drop some gritty funk and Trey gets to some almost plinko space in his staccato playing. Next up is a far reaching Ghost that first meanders and then climbs to a powerful transition to Low Rider (after a mere 214 layoff) before shifting over to Makisupa where the keyword references a fire in the band’s hotel back in Cincy. The outro jam of this then pushes into Ya Mar and from there the set stays in a more song-based mode as they ride the high energy of the room. This is a unique show with the setlist debuts and a great example of the highs that 2.0 Phish could reach.

12.27.2010  It was then another seven and a half years before Phish would return to Worcester, partially due to that whole “breaking up” thing. Here we get the first two nights of the first five night NYE Run in the band’s history with the last three occurring down at MSG after one night off between the venues. This was the first show following the Halloween Little Feat throwdown in Atlantic City so it isn’t exactly surprising that there’s a bit of rustiness to be found here. On top of that, there was a full-on blizzard going down outside and Trey was battling a cold. All that said, this was still another fun night in the Centrum and being the first time the band had played here in 3.0 spirits were high amongst the faithful. The first set is very song heavy with only the lovely Roggae eclipsing the ten minute mark as the band mixed in the 54 show bustout of Cool It Down and the second/final version of the Mike tune What Things Seem mixed in with mainly common fare. The second set starts out promisingly enough with Mike’s which gets a 74 show bustout of Mound in the middle slot (only time that has ever happened) before they bring Paug around (so much for the hope of a set-spanning Groove, dude) and then trot out Farmhouse. Seven Below provides hope and delivers on that to a certain degree when Trey begins adding WTU? phrasing to the jam, eventually ending up there for a unique meshing of the two songs. Honestly, outside of the clever lyric change in Cavern to “take care of your boots” that’s about it for highlights in this one. Oh well, at least there’s more to come.

12.28.2010  Night two on this stop feels a lot more energetic which might be as much about the crowd being more comfortable as the band considering Trey’s voice is not in a good place for singing tonight. The first set gets a couple of bustouts in MMGAMOIO (56 shows) and She Caught the Katy (323 shows) which I still scratch my head about in wondering why that song then. Before we can answer that rhetorical question they blow up the room with a compact but boisterous Wolfman’s and then debut Pigtail which was then promptly shipped off to TAB tour until it came back twice this summer. The set ends with another debut, this time a curious choice due to Trey’s voice issues as the a cappella Birdwatcher (another song heard mostly with TAB after this time) gets its turn. Oh yeah, almost forgot. Trey uses a toy Sarah Palin thing to insert her soundbites into Alaska, amusing himself greatly and throwing a bunch of spunions into a wild head trip. Nice job, Trey. The second set chugs in with standard takes on Carini and BDT#L before an energetic BOTT (with the crutch Streets of Cairo tease thrown in) that segues nicely into LxL. Later in the set we have two more bustouts with Frankie Says (82 shows) and Albuquerque (60 shows) which precede a stunningly beautiful plinko-filled Hood that is the gem of this pair of shows. Listen for Page teasing the wonderful Spanish Harlem along with some other musical nods that may or may not be there depending on who you ask. The Bug closer and Shine A Light encore add some gravitas behind that Hood and we are outta here for the year.

06.07.2012  The Summer 2012 tour got started here in Worcester with a pair of shows that had the fanbase buzzing as the band was coming off a rather underwhelming NYE Run to end 2011 and following a Spring where Trey hit the symphony circuit and Mike did a little Euro run (including headlining Jam in the Dam VI). Hopes weren’t exactly high about the music the band had left us with last so no one really knew what to expect here. Perhaps in response to this, Phish came out with guns blazing, leaving those questions at the curb. It doesn’t hurt when you start the tour with Buried Alive>Jim>Torn & Frayed sequence, going from the old school darkness through a bright and fun Jim jam and onto a song with emotional impact and poignant, relevant lyrics like “the band is a bag of nerves on first nights”. After a few more energetic dance numbers we have a pair of bustouts surrounding Ocelot in the ultra rare Nothing (78 show gap and only six ever performances now) and Beauty of a Broken Heart (91 show gap). Then the set concludes with a somewhat different take on the Possum jam and Rocky Top, giving us little to no hint about what was to come after the break. Things get started with a Carini that goes to bliss territory pretty quickly, opening up into a lush, sway-friendly space where Page is layering in various effects on the keyboards and Mike and Trey are tinkling around, eventually building up to a transition point where Trey moves into Taste, one with a soaring Norwegian Wood tinged jam (I will never tire of how quickly we fans pick up on that sort of tease. You can hear the recognition within a note or two here). This is followed by yet another solid Ghost from this venue which tonight starts out with a patient groove that evolves through several sections before starting to lose steam when Mike takes charge and pushes it into Boogie On. Normally that would probably signal the move into fun time Phish where the jams are an afterthought but tonight they take Boogie out dancing as Trey plays an infectious lead and Mike employs the meatball filter to great effect. The crowd climbs on for the ride as they peak it out more than once before dropping back down to a funk groove and eventually segueing into the 102 show bustout of If I Could. You could excuse them for wrapping it up with a couple of rockers after that but a punchy Quinn, peaky Hood, Cavern, and a bit of Buried Alive reprise are still in store before the predictable Cup encore. This show is a very strong tour opener and definitely one that had us all beaming after the doubts that preceded.

06.08.2012  The second night follows the Worcester tradition of rare openers as Free gets its second ever appearance in the one slot (first one was only three shows prior on 12.29.2011 – and there have now been another four since this one) and then in the three slot fans finally got their wish for another go at jamming out the Ween classic Roses are Free. you know how I said you can hear the tease recognition in that Taste? Well, once the crowd realizes they are stretching out this Roses the place went WILD. This was clearly a conscious effort by the band that pays off for all as they settle into a playful groove where both Trey and Mike bring forward creative ideas before it drops out into Theme. The rest of the set is fine enough, I suppose, but that Roses is where the hat hangs, so to speak. The Julius has a bit of extra stank on it and the Gin peaks well in closing things up which is always appreciated. The second set starts out with a better-than-I-remembered Disease but it’s not one you will see thousand word essays written about any time soon, I would venture. Next up is Sand which doesn’t go too far into the typical jam but instead after a bit of plinko gets one of the more unique full segues ever accomplished by the band as they somehow move from the late 90s groove vehicle into a bluegrass cover in Nellie Kane. Dubbed the “Sandy Kane” by some it deserves a spin or two if only to hear this transition go down. The balance of the set is fine enough with the only Mike’s>Maki>Paug ever and a highly danceable 2001 in the penultimate slot but nothing really elevates in the second set.

10.25.2013  The following year Phish was back for another pair in the week leading up to their Fall Tour ending stop at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. This first set is decent with a nice Wolfman’s and the 109 show bustout of MMGAMOIO (last played here…) being the notable things to take away from it. This is not to say that nothing else is “good” here just that it is the type of good we expect from the band without it ever going past that mark. But the second set is a different story as they open with Waves, giving the song space in the second jam as they bring it up to a swelling peak that crashes into the start of Carini. Sorry about that ‘waves’ imagery there. It was just too easy. Anyway, the Carini is another solid one, this time staying in darker territory than the one from here last year in a more compact version that I felt should have continued longer rather than moving on to Caspian. Oh well. The BDT#L jam after that is nice in the oh-yeah-this-is-why-I-like-this-song way that often hits those who grumble about it being played mid second set and then we have another entry into the Worcester Ghost files. This one is playful and light as they change the lyrics to reference Fish’s son Jack. The jam dies out into Dirt and then after a straight forward Disease they head to end of set proceedings with a Sally>Cavern>Lope sequence. The encores are extended a bit tonight as they fit in four songs including Contact which if you listen to closely enough on the auds you might hear my wife loudly booing (kidding about hearing her, but she is NOT a fan of that song and has definitely booed it at shows… including this one). The first half of this second set is really strong but overall this is a bit of a standard-feeling show.

10.26.2013  The next night is a different story. Maybe it is me but something about this first set just speaks to the combined energy of the band and crowd making it a lot better than perhaps it should have been just looking at it on paper. Nothing here is a big jam highlight but everything pops from the Party Time opener on. There’s something to be said for a set when even in being ten songs long only has one almost slower song with Ride Captain Ride. The second set continues the trend though now with jams aplenty as they first take Drowned to several places including some Oye Como Va type phrasing, a Steam-like part, and a section that really feels a heck of a lot like Jimmy Cliff’s Sitting Here in Limbo. The Light that follows is brilliant as well, shining with melodic delight and hitting a section where Fish interjects “heys” in an obvious nod to the ‘hey hole‘ jam space they hit.Succinct runs through Sand, Theme, and Mike’s lead to the second ever No Quarter in the Groove sandwich slot (which is to say the placement is the second ever, not that it is the second ever performance of the song) as Paug caps the set in rocking fashion. During the Boogie encore someone joins Fish on the kit, eventually taking over for him as Fish moves to the side to watch. That person turns out to be legendary drummer (and Berklee School of Music professor) Kenwood Dennard who many in the Phish scene probably first became aware of from his appearance on the Maceo Parker tour staple album Life On Planet Groove which you probably heard a lot if you spent any time in the lots in the mid 90s. Kenwood stays on the kit for Possum and while I personally like this very different take on the drumline many were not quite so appreciative of it. So much for taking risks. This is definitely the better of the two from 2013 and might be the best of the 3.0 shows overall from this venue considering the deep jams and clear intent to just go for it from the start.

 

And now for the Tale Of The Tape!

Venue:  Worcester Centrum Centre (DCU Center)

No. of Shows:  sixteen

Intangibles:  geographic position draws fans from all over New England and the Tri-State area to the southwest, better acoustics and ease of access than similarly sized venues in Boston appeal to the band and fan alike, venue is one of the classic minor league hockey sheds where Phish made their name – and still has that feel, always has one of the wildest old school lot scenes around

Recurring Themes:  multi-night stands (only two single shows with six multi-nighters including two three-nighters in 97 & 98); unique openers (Funky Bitch is only repeat with several songs opening shows for one of few times ever), bustouts (almost every year there are at least a few minor and often major song bustouts, singular performances of songs (eight songs have been played here and nowhere else: All the Pain Through the Years, Blue Skies, Clone, Drifting, Final Flight, Layla, Mirror in the Bathroom, Them Changes), no Divided Sky or ACDC Bag (neither song has ever been played here), Ghost jams (every version they have played here has merit in some fashion), Possum and Stash (chances are, if you come to Worcester shows you’ll get one as each has been played in all but two of their stops in town)

Key Jams/Songs:  1993 – Stash, Reba, Lope, Tweezer, Ice, Possum, ALS>Disease Jam>Melt, Hood; 1995 – Melt, Timber Ho!>Theme, Tweezer->IDK, Slave, Stash, Gin->Real Me->Gin->McGrupp>BBFCFM>Bass Jam->La Grange; 1997 – YEM->IDK, BEK, Timber Ho!, LxL, Slave, Ghost, Foam, THE Jim, Hood, Funky Bitch, Wolfman’s, Stash->Free; 1998 – Ya Mar, Jim, Reba, entire 2nd Set of 11.27, Gumbo, Disease, Foam, Melt, Wolfman’s>Timber Ho!, Caspian>Crossroads, Tweezer, Theme, LxL->Catapult->Kung, Simple, Possum->Wipeout->Possum, Gin; 2003 – YEM>Clone, Roggae, Moma, Stash, Ghost->Low Rider->Maki->Ya Mar; 2010 – Roggae, Seven Below>WTU?, Wolfman’s, BOTT->LxL, Hood; 2012 – Jim>T&F, Possum, Carini->Taste>Ghost>Boogie>IIC, Hood, Roses are Free, Julius, Gin, Sand->Nellie Kane, 2001; 2013 – Waves>Carini, BDT#L>Ghost, Gin, Drowned>Light, Possum

PJJ Ratio:  Worcester comes in at a lower than expected but still solid 2.56 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). Even my hometown bias can’t massage the numbers there.

Worcester has a long history and is rightfully considered one of the classic venues in Phish lore. A lot of that reputation is based on the shows from 1.0/2.0 as some of the sets in 3.0 haven’t exactly been all-timers. This is a place where the band and crowd are clearly comfortable which shows up in the loose feel to the playing and the general rowdiness of the fans both inside the venue and out in the streets that surround. While at the end of this the Centrum is definitely not going to place highly in the overall ranking of these venues it is a place we hold dear as much as for what it represents from the band’s past as what they continue to do when visiting. Some truly canonical stuff has gone down here including NYE 1993, The epic Jim, the Wipeout Set, and the “What I Did On Hiatus” set but that is really just the cream of a banner crop. Long live the Worcester lots!!

 

And We Play Bebop in the Band – Las Vegas, NV 12.06.1996

Phish — The Aladdin Theatre — Las Vegas, NV 12.06.1996

I  Wilson>Peaches>Poor Heart>2001>Llama, YEM, CTB>Disease>Frankenstein

II  Julius, Sparkle>Mike’s>Simple>Hood>Paug, Adeline, GTBT

E  Harpua->Wildwood Weed->Harpua->I Want to Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart->Harpua->Suspicious Minds->Harpua, Suzy

The final show of a tour is something of a culmination, an opportunity to revel in everything that has come before it, and a chance to reflect back on how we have gotten here just a mere month or two since starting out. It is also a grand celebration and the last time to throw down with several thousand of your best friends knowing that you won’t have this opportunity to dance to Phish music for some time after this night. Musically, these shows can either be very fulfilling with jams galore and perhaps a few knowing nods to what developed over the tour or sometimes the last show can be more of a party where the music is secondary to the celebration. Neither one is bad by any means and with the variety of people who attend shows (particularly these days…) what might not work for one fan could be the best possible show for another. But if you add in a destination like, oh, I don’t know, LAS VEGAS to the equation? Well, my friend, you have the ingredients for one of those nights when everything just seems to come together perfectly.

 

This was the first time that Phish had played Las Vegas since… hang on. Wait. This can’t be… They really hadn’t ever played in Las Vegas before this night? Really?? Huh. That just can’t be, can it? It can? Okay, well, um… I guess we will have to move right into talking about the show then.

 

This is weird. I don’t know what to do without a couple hundred words full of links about shows gone by. Just roll with it? Well, if I say so…

 

This show along with being the tour ender and first time in Las Vegas for the band is the singular time they played at the Aladdin Theater, a venue now called the The AXIS (would that Phish could play Bold as Love there but we’re too big for this room now…). It is located in the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino though back in 1996 it was, somewhat obviously, named the Aladdin Resort & Casino. These things change a lot in that town as we know. Future visits to the city that birthed countless bad decisions would be at the much larger Thomas & Mack Center (the home to UNLV basketball amongst other arena-sized events) and lately the MGM Grand Garden Arena but those are for another time. Today we tackle this wonderfully Phishy night that saw the band and fans celebrating the end to another top notch Fall with some of the over-the-top lunacy that only a place like Las Vegas can beckon.

 

Before we get too far, let’s give you a few places to check out this show outside of the somewhat muddy auds on the typical streaming sites. First and foremost is the spotify of the ‘standard edition’ release of the show. I swear the ‘limited edition’ used to be on there but I’m not finding it anymore. You can also purchase the standard release at Dry Goods, naturally. The aforementioned Limited Release came with a DVD with video of the show from the 2001 through the end which is high quality stuff if you can find it as well as a CD called “Road to Vegas” that had several tracks from the tour leading up to that night:  11.09.1996 Melt, 11.03.1996 Tweezer, 11.07.1996 Gin, 11.18.1996 Simple, and 11.30.1996 Amazing Grace>Amazing Grace jam. All of those are things we have highlighted here along the path of this tour. There’s a less-than-awesome rip of the video on YouTube if you want to at least see what is up with all that went down but I would recommend seeking out the higher quality version if you can find it (I once saw it as an On Demand offering on Fios about five years ago which made for a fun surprise viewing).

 

Okay, I think that gets us where we want to be here.

Everybody ready? Show cued up and volume cranked? Let’s do it!

 

The band comes out with purpose, dropping into the crowd-pleasing Gamehendge rocker Wilson to warm up and get the crowd involved from the start. They crank right though this one (the sixth of tour) and drop into the second Peaches en Regalia of the tour (joining the nod to FZ in his hometown of LA a few nights prior). This one is clean and mean as they have clearly been practicing it and leads into Poor Heart for our typical third song first set bluegrass romp. Continuing the string they extend the outro here into a bit of spacey murk where Trey is pulling, Mike is pushing, and Page plinks around on the effects until Fish snaps the beat and we are into 2001! Not a song you expect to here mid first set, from the start there’s a swagger here that has been building over the past few versions this tour. Trey comes in with the Superbad beat, plays some searching lines above the groove. They patiently sit in this pocket until after the five minute mark when they finally get to the first ‘refrain’, dropping back into an infectious funk groove. Trey is plucking out staccato rhythm lines as the dance party goes big time and then after the final ‘refrain’ they go back to some noisy, distorted murk that erupts into Llama. Trey is on point here, shredding the hell out of this fast paced version (Page has a really fast run through his organ solo too) as they tempt the fans to keep up with non-stop action here five songs into the set. After a minuscule stop to allow everyone to catch their breath they start up You Enjoy Myself, yet another oddly placed vehicle here in the middle of the first set. By now you have to be thinking “holy crap, they are really going for it tonight” which might be one of the more obvious notions your expanded head has ever thrown at you at a show. This YEM starts out with beautifully played Pre and Nirvana sections before they swell up towards the collective release and start to the lyrical section and move to the tramps/jam section(s). Once through the tramps Trey starts playing the funk comp chords you will really get to know and love if you dive headlong into the ’97 cowfunk, allowing Page to do his thing on the organ. After a bit Trey shifts to lead, starting way down with sparse runs of notes featuring elongated tones as fish metronomes behind him. They almost get to a stop-start jam but then Mike hits the fight bell and Trey starts his climb, toying around that typical YEM thematic lead before elevating into a rocking full band jam. Trey is laying waste to it while Fish pounds down and just before they hit the inevitable peak Trey lets his guitar fade out with distortion and heads to the minikit. As he and Fish play Rhythm Devils Mike takes charge on bass, keeping this non-stop dance anthem going hard. After a couple of minutes here they head into the VJ which normally I wouldn’t pay too much heed in this space but it is one of my favorites being the “Donuts I Love Donuts” VJ which is catchy and fun and just perfectly phishy all at once.

 

Now we get our first real breather of the night with NOPE! Instead of letting up they go into Cars Trucks Buses for the thirteenth time this tour (tied for third most overall…). This stays close to form with Page taking charge and playing brightly until the move into Down With Disease. Another oft played tune this tour, Disease stays at home within structure but pops with that massive type I energetic feel as Trey trills above the chugging groove pocket. There is benefit in having played this song so much over the course of the tour as this version is clean and nailed in the way that only a song you play frequently can be. It is almost an auto-pilot jam it feels so effortless. After bringing it back around to the traditional Disease close that we so rarely get these days they put an exclamation point on the set with a raucous Frankenstein. Trey gives us The Lie and then it is off to figure out how many hands of blackjack you can get in during the setbreak while concurrently arguing with your friends about how many shows this tour even have second sets as good as that first one was. Honestly, if you saw that setlist for a second frame here in 3.0 you’d be pretty excited to hear it, wouldn’t you? It’s okay. You can admit it. This is a safe place. There there now. It’s going to be aaaaaaallllll right. Now go get me some nachos.

 

You back yet? Okay, so after a lot of high-fiving and caterwauling and whatnot about how fantastic that first set was you settle into your spot for this final set of Phish before the few weeks’ break leading up to the New Year’s Run starting in Philly. You are kind of expecting a big Tweezer here seeing that they played Mike’s the other night and it had been a few since the last Tweezer but once the lights drop all that speculating goes by the wayside as Trey starts in with the recognizable “doo-doo-do-duh” that gives us Julius. I’ve said it before this tour and it holds true here as well: Trey really really can shred the shit out of Julius. This high energy, rollicking second set opener just continues the celebration of the tour they started from note one in the first set and along with the Sparkle that follows fits the bill in getting everyone back into the right headspace to get to the dancing for the remainder of the show. The Sparkle (non-FMS, of course) butts up against the start of our first real vehicle which surprisingly ends up being Mike’s Song considering what we mentioned just above. Thankfully, they were pretty good at jamming this song back then so even though it might not have gone next level like the one from San Diedo or even St. Louis (or Knoxville… or Tallahassee… they are all in the sidebar playlist there…) it gets a bit dark in the jam as Trey toys around the theme with Page and Mike eventually following him as they start to break down out of Mike’s, coming back to it with a repeated “siren” two note phrase by Trey that drips with musical tension. Knowing that the drop into the transition is just waiting to happen. There is no overt move into a second jam tonight as they play in this frenetic space for several minutes, pulsing in and around the Mike’s Song theme before Trey finally brings it up to the major key peak and move into… Simple! Well, of course. This has been the Simple Tour now hasn’t it? Well, for the capstone version of the tour they go for it big time, seemingly picking up where another version of this jam left off. Trey shines in the early, type I section, peeling off beautiful lines. The band connects and drops down to a quieter, slower pace around the seven minute mark with Page’s piano matching Trey in the beauty department. All are involved at this point and it feels like it could slip into nothingness or continue on in this way forever as you hug yourself, swaying with closed eyes and feeling the cool breeze of the air conditioning fans brushing against your face, the ever present smile you brought with you beaming forth like  the best CK5 light show there is. A few minutes of this loveliness later Trey begins to speed up his lead, interjecting new ideas into the groove and the band follows as they begin to build towards some kind of transition or end peak. But then Trey hits on a dirty groove, the band joins him and we are into another phase altogether. This is the true move out of Simple proper but still evokes Simple in some sense. After only a minute or so of this Trey moves again, this time more back to Simple than away but still in a new, fresh direction. Fish changes the beat as we move past the sixteen minute mark and they hit on a percussive groove as it starts to all break down with Page being the one continuing the melody. After one last Trey lead idea that Page matches it is clear this has now run its course, evidenced by Fish adding some soft, all but incomprehensible lyric to it and the band resolves to move on. Fish hits the start of Harry Hood and your smile widens even more (you really are going to have some tired cheeks after this night) as they play in the ‘reggae’ intro. Trey hits a couple of whistle wahs, Mike hits the fight bell and then as they get into the song proper Trey hits some more toys on his mini-kit as we get to the lyrics. Once to the jam this Hood elevates like all the great ones do, first with Page tinkling the electric piano keys in that way that gets all the hairs on your neck standing at attention as Trey patiently works on that slow-build crescendo. Within only a few moments you are right back in that blissful space that Simple begat, feeling all the love there could possibly be flowing down over you in bits of musical joy. Suddenly you notice that as Trey is building again with Mike adding his flair and Page lifting it higher the syncopated groove is intertwining all around you. We are off to the run at the peak now but still a ways to go before getting there so you open your eyes and realize the entire room is just as lost in this as you are, causing you to whoop out in spontaneous joy. They keep building the tension until finally Trey erupts over the rest of the band, taking the reins of this before it spins out of control, and riding it into the glorious end peak resolution this song hangs its hat on. In recognition of a jam well done Mike nails the fight bell a few times and then kicks off the Weekapaug Groove beat as Trey’s final guitar line continues to sustain in the fading distance. At this point it is all almost too much but you came here to get down and getting down is exactly what this Paug will make you do. They set up a funk pocket with Page toying on the organ first and then Trey comes in with an almost-but-not-quite 3rd Stone From The Sun tease but instead kicks it over to Page for a big piano-heavy jam with Fish just pounding away in the back and Mike dropping big behind. Trey sets a loop and joins Fish on percussion for a bit until he soars up over the groove with those tell tale Trey leads. Suddenly he kicks the band into a stop/start jam where everyone is going NUTS somehow divergent but still in the same direction. They bring it all the way down to ‘pin drop’ space (pretty sure you can even hear Fish say “yeah” on the SBDs) before EXPLODING into the final run at the Paug peak. This is pure glory Phish at this point where seemingly everything they do blows the room up and you can hear that the band and crowd know it even on the tape. As they come to a close here you realize you haven’t stopped moving in about seventy minutes so it’s a good thing for you that they come up for air in the wake of this Paug. Here, finally, Phish realizes that they along with the crowd might need a sip of water or at least a few deep breaths so they come to the front of the stage for an un-mic’d Sweet Adeline (which is pretty much not captured on the tapes, of course). Then, to bring this set home they crank into a shreddy Good Times Bad Times, a perfectly fitting capper to a big time night of music. Man, what a set. What a show! Any encore they do here is just gravy, am I right?

 

Heh. Hehehe. HAHAHAHAHA!!

 

Yeah, “gravy”. Sure. That’s all it is…

 

Okay, if you don’t know this about me, I have another little project that I started a bunch of years back that kinda totally completely petered out as I had a lot of other things biding for my time like a new kid, new job, etc. etc. Anyway, I have a now-long-not-updated blog called Me and Harpua where I was going to go through every Harpua ever played to dissect that wonderfully odd second class Gamehendge storytime tune about our pal Jimmy, his cat Poster the Nutbag, and that fat sweaty bulldog Harpua. Suffice it to say, I am a huge fan of the song and I have been lucky enough to have caught it seven times over the years but STILL NOT ONCE in 3.0 dang it! So you can imagine that when I talked to friends who were at this Vegas show and saw it pop up on the setlists at rec.music.phish I was geeked and intrigued to hear what this version entailed. The prior version had been left unfinished at The Clifford Ball due to a bit of a technical malfunction with the stunt they were trying to employ (a story for another time, perhaps…) and while the various versions aren’t tied together in any conceivable way it still was something I and others really wanted to find out about after this show. So when you hear Trey come out and welcome Larry LaLonde and old friend Les Claypool to the stage at the start of the encore and then they sing that oh so wonderful “oom pa pa oom pa pa oom pa paaaaa” intro line to Harpua the squee factor goes to eleven in a hurry. From the start, something here is… different… but unless you know a bit about music you might not realize that it is because they are playing the song in 4/4 time instead of its typical, somewhat odd 7/4 time. The addition of Larry’s jangly guitar is a neat add-on here but it is clear Trey is thrown off in singing to this different beat. They work through that (and honestly, this song is not about hitting every note as much as it is in getting to the story) and then while playing that same Harpua melody Les does his talking jive thing based on an old song called Wildwood Weed by Don Bowman (here’s a take by Jim Stafford). The lyrics fit right in as you will see and kind of set the mood for all that we don’t yet know is to come. They pop right back into Harpua at the start of storytime and Trey gets to the telling, beginning to weave the tale of the next chapter in the world of our pal Jimmy. I won’t go into full detail here as if you aren’t familiar it really is a story that deserves your time but the main gist is that Jimmy is on his way to Las Vegas and things go sideways as they tend to do for him. As the tale progresses Jimmy sets camp for the night and he and Poster end up singing (nay, yodeling!) a song by the campfire which cues some folks to come out to help the band play that song, I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart, a classic country yodeling yarn by Patsy Montana. Tonight it is performed by The Yodeling Cowgirls (naturally) with Phish, Larry, Les, and our newish friend John McEuen helping them out. After that fun interlude Trey gets back to the story and Jimmy’s journey to Vegas, resulting in him running into a pack of Elvii. So as one would expect, three Elvis impersonators come to the stage and along with Fish decked out in his own Elvis cape which we last saw on 10.29.1996 back in Tallahassee. Trey goes to Fish’s kit and we get Suspicious Minds because what else would they play here, this one a particularly memorable version – particularly considering it still stands as the last time they have played it to date. This stands to be a battle between “Jimmy” (i.e. Fish) and the other Elvii to allow him to enter the city, which he does, and then Trey continues on with his tale of Jimmy’s quest to make a lot of money in Vegas only to have our antagonist show up, moving the story on to the fight and resolution phase. After finishing this up they pop right into Suzy Greenberg and EVERYONE comes back to the stage for the party. So that’s Phish, Larry LaLonde, Les Claypool, John McEuen, the Elvii, the Yodeling Cowgirls (dancing), and just for good measure the actor Courtney Gains who you might know from Children of the Corn or another classic 80s flick hops on Trey’s minikit as well. The Suzy stretches out and then at some point on of the Elvii starts interjecting Suzie Q, the Credence Clearwater Revival tune, and the band catches on and they play that out until the big finish. Yes, that is the end to the show, finally, and what an ending it is. There are some pretty memorable encores that this band has played over the years but very few can match this one. And just like that the show and tour are over and all that is left is the hugging and reveling in what just went down before scattering off into the harsh light of the Las Vegas night.

 

I know that as soon as I write this someone will have an opposing view but for my money there really isn’t a tour ending show that can top this one. It has a bit of everything that we love about Phish from the tight, energetic playing to the open jamming to the antics to the mythos and storytelling and more. The band is in celebration mode but not in a fashion that detracts from the music which is as good as you could want in this context. Both sets and the encore are worthy of your time and energy in the listening, giving us a good summary of where this tour has come from and brought us to in the end. There are five songs in this show that were played way back in the opener from Lake Placid and every one has so much more to offer than those versions from just under two months ago. More than that, the jams in this show pull together a lot of the ideas that have been percolating over that time, none more so than this Simple. Some will make the quite reasonable argument that the Memphis Simple from 11.18.1996 is the top version of the tour but this Vegas one feels like they are writing the end of tour essay on “How Simple Grew Up During Fall Tour 1996” that no one bothered to assign them. The Hood has a similar feel as does the Down with Disease where all of these are perhaps not the best singular version of each song from the tour but do quite well in representing the Fall 1996 vibe and sound. I’ll have more to say about that vibe/sound in the summary posts to follow. For now let’s get to the takeaways from this night which are many. The first tier are 2001, YEM, Disease, Julius, the whole Mike’s>Simple>Hood>Paug sequence, and the entirety of the encore suite Harpua->Wildwood Weed->Harpua->I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart->Harpua->Suspicious Minds->Harpua->Suzy. Second tier? Well, let’s just say that everything worth plucking out here is top notch and you really should just spin the whole thing since the songs I left out there are all worthy of second tier status at worst. Call this fluffing, sure, but note that this is not a show I attended so there’s no attendance bias at play so that’s just me finding this show to be so very very good. This tour has provided us with a quite lengthy list of potential top notch takeaways to get through and this show doesn’t happen without all that brought us here. I love this show and have spun it probably as much as any other show  Phish has played. It is a great one to give people who like to say 1996 is the lull between 1995 and 1997 as it has a lot of the elements that make those two years so great all in one place. So if you haven’t been listening along while reading or are perhaps not familiar with this show, go do yourself a favor and spin this one loud. You will not be disappointed.

Come On Dudes Let’s Get IT On – Omaha, NE 11.16.1996

Phish — Civic Auditorium — Omaha, NE 11.16.1996

I  Poor Heart>Disease, Guyute, Gumbo, Rift, Free, Old Home Place, Bowie, Lawn Boy>Sparkle>Frankenstein

II  La Grange>Jim->VoL->Kung->Catapult, Axilla>Hood>Suzy, Amazing Grace

E  We’re an American Band

 

After getting tricksy and jamming hard in St. Louis on Friday night Phish traveled another 400+ miles for their Saturday night stop in Omaha, NE visiting the largest city in the Cornhusker state for the first (and only) time. This marked the band’s sixth in a row with some form of performance starting with the Monday night show in Grand Rapids and including the pre-game performance of the Star Spangled Banner for the Minnesota Timberwolves game on Tuesday before four straight nights of shows capped by this one in the other Gateway to the West. Seriously, when you have two regional capital cities that are less than 500 miles apart trying to promote themselves with the same moniker it induces some head scratching on the part of those of us who perhaps aren’t as hip to the history of westward expansion and the role that crossing big rivers plays in that. That confusion aside, in the past week they have covered over 1,600 miles of travel through the Midwest to make their total over the tour more than 7,100 miles which would take a hell of a lot of grilled cheese sold in order to cover your gas money not to mention tickets, food, lodging, and whatnot. I sure hope you had a better fiscal plan than relying on your grilled cheese margins for covering those expenses. Somehow you made it here though and with the cold weather just amplifying along the path you are really hoping for another hot show to keep the chill at bay for perhaps one more day

 

Sheerly by the virtue of the low number of times that the band has played in this state, Nebraska might have an argument for being one of the best places to see Phish (statistically) so you have that going for you coming in. I say that with some confidence knowing that prior to this night there had only been one show in the state over in the capital and home to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. If for some reason you don’t already know that show from 10.21.1995 you should probably pause here and go ahead and spin that because it is very much worth your time. I mean, there are only three shows where they have ever opened with Reprise of which this is one and the other two are 11.09.1995 which is quite stellar and 06.19.2010 which is… um, well, it is a fun show that has both a Reprise opener and encore? Yeah, okay, it isn’t exactly the best show ever but they were really having fun with the Reprise thing after the double encore of it in Hartford and then opening SPAC with it for the third performance of the song in a row and then Trey teasing it in there before they capped the show with it as well (in what could go down as one of the more obvious calls in band history if you follow the setlists closely each tour). But yeah that Lincoln show (at yet another now defunct venue, the Civic Auditorium) has some heat in the lead up to Halloween on that epic tour. Big time Bowie, really fun YEM, a beaut of a Hood, one of those real purty Rebas, teases all over the place, a return to Reprise out of a shreddy GTBT to close the first set, and just a solid top to bottom show all around. Go ahead and spin that (there’s even an official archival release available on LivePhish) and come back. We will be here when you are all caught up.

 

::checks imaginary wristwatch::

::stares longingly out of window::

 

… hmmm… I wonder if they are coming back. Can someone do one of those facesnaptwitogram things all the kids are on about and see whether we just lost everybody to Fall ’95? I really shouldn’t be promoting other shows as highly as I do. The guys in Marketing are really gonna lay into me again and I just don’t need that kind of stress right now, man. It’s just that, wait what’s that? We’re good to go? Really? My producer is giving me the sign to keep it rolling so we won’t try to stretch this out any further. Okay, let’s do this!

 

The festivities on this evening begin with Poor Heart (while we don’t have full show video of this one I’ll sprinkle in what I have found on YT), that witty ditty about stolen tapedecks which has been a setlist staple forever. I was a bit surprised to find out, however, that in all of its 294 performances the song has only ever opened 13 shows (and 9 second sets) which really feels quite low. Now, granted, the song often comes in at the #2 or #3 slot as a secondary punch in the opening combo but this is still a lot less than I would have guessed. It gets weirder still since three of those openers happened in single set opener slots during the Summer ’92 run when they were opening for Santana and another is a Santana opener from Summer’ 96 so the number of full Phish shows that have Poor Heart openers is then only nine. Looking at those shows there really isn’t much to point to in terms of cohesiveness except perhaps that (leaving out the single setters) they did it three times each in 1995 and 1996, haven’t opened a show with Poor Heart since 09.21.1999, played Bowie in 7 of the 9 shows, and that’s it. There’s nothing else to really link these shows. And I have now spent way more time on this than anyone really should and it is keeping us from the show here so let’s just keep it moving. Poor Heart gives way to Down with Disease and tonight we have another fiery first set version that starts off with a little double tap *ting* by Mike in the intro and then takes off for a screaming bit of shred that really kicks the set into gear. Riding that wave they then head into Guyute, our second of the tour, and pretty well nail the big composed rocker. I always feel like there is more that I should be saying about this tune but outside of the end peak part it really doesn’t do much for me personally. I know there are those who chase it or whatever and I am probably a bit jaded on it having seen it way too much at its peak but there’s just no there there for me. I’d rather they spent that 10+ minutes on something a bit less… I dunno… predictable? Eh, whatever, it is perfectly fine prawg rawk so yeah. Oh well, I guess we can now say I’ve discussed it and move on. Next up is Gumbo, our fourth fun, dancy, energetic tune to start the set and just as in Grand Rapids this one gets the Maple Leaf Rag ending which is nice. Keeping their collective feet on the proverbial pedal the band cranks into Rift for a run through the, um, Rift number and then drops into Free yet again for the eighth time in 23 shows. That’s not a complaint by any means as they have settled into a satisfyingly dirty mode of jamming this song on this tour. Tonight’s version gets some Trey mini-kit fill action including the whistle wah in the big, swirling build and pays off in a fist-pumping manner for all the dudes in the front row.

 

And then in the wake of Free we finally get a bit of a respite from all of that rocking Phish as they trot out The Old Home Place for our second grassy tune of the night. This allows the full-bladdered folk to run off to do their business and then a few minutes later they drop right back into the bigger stuff with what will be the anchor of the set in David Bowie (Part I, Part II). The intro to this Bowie is a bit different than normal with Trey playing bent, almost twangy notes to accent the high hat and then when they get to the kick it is on. Fitting the mode of these first sets (and for this song in general in this time period) this Bowie is mainly of the type I variety though in the first half of the jam Trey keeps it low key and opts to explore around the Bowie theme in building all of that wonderful tension we look for in this song. There is a great deal of patience shown here as unlike in a version you might here nowadays they really give this one room to become more than just a run to the peak. I mention “nowadays” because here in 3.0 Bowie is a neutered form of its former self, never going as deep as it once did when it was one of THE biggest of vehicles but even still not even touching some of the latter day 1.0 and even a few in 2.0 ones that get into some type II exploration. I’m not saying this Omaha Bowie is an all-timer or anything but even in a relatively tame version there is more to be found here than in most of the 3.0 Bowies with the notable exceptions of the one that came in the wake of the Disease Supreme on 06.03.2011 and perhaps 12.28.2012 which are coincidentally the only 3.0 versions to eclipse 15 minutes…  Now we finally get the first real breather of the set as Page comes out to croon Lawn Boy which then gives way to a non-FMS Sparkle (obviously). After that they romp through a spot on cover of Frankenstein (I have an irrational love for this song) to cap this fun if not phenomenal first set, sending the faithful to the break with yet another LIE about being back in about fifteen minutes. At this point I am surprised we believe anything they say what with how much they push this deceitful agenda on their adoring fans.

 

Steaming about this seemingly tongue in cheek comment by Trey you storm out to the concourse to get some fresh air, fume a bit, and maybe stretch the legs before the band decides to come back whenever that happens. As you do you hear passing conversations about other great events that have gone down here at the (now closed) Civic Auditorium like that Elvis show in ’77 which was one of his last or that epic Vice Presidential debate between Bentson and Quayle from 1988 which birthed the famous “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” line (found around the 59:00 mark in that video) or the 07.05.1978 and 10.21.1973 Dead shows that went down here. I’m sure there are other highlights at this venue but I am not getting in the habit of noting Hootie and the Blowfish shows so we’ll just nip that in the bud right now, mister. Eventually you make it back to your spot and get ready for what should be another hot set if the past few after Ames are any indication of direction (pro tip: never make assumptions about future Phish sets based on the relative performance of previous sets as this can go wrong in several ways). The lights go down and you start to get yourself ‘right’ as the band starts into our first La Grange since the prior year’s New Year’s Run (56 shows) and from the get you can tell Trey is going to tear this one up. That assumption is correct as there are no signs of rust on this bluesy rocker, a song now residing in the “Where are they now” files since it petered out of rotation in late 1.0 and has only been played once in 3.0 on 07.08.2012. Wrapping this up they bring out Runaway Jim, working through the verses and then heading out into a focused jam that sticks to the main theme of the song while also forging some new ground. After searching a bit they land in a fast paced groove that allows Trey to toy around on top, offering up staccato lines and such that lean towards something a bit in the Hendrix-ish way but still not quite there (though we will soon enough). There is a funkiness going on here as well as this groove punches on before they drop into a less structured phase that sets up the transition space.

 

After a minute or so of effects Trey comes to the mic and asks Fish to drop out on the drums allowing him to introduce the bustout of the Vibration of Life (148 shows), a ‘song’ most common in 1994 but also found in 1992, 1993, and here in 1996. If you aren’t familiar with it the performance can be either confusing or eye-opening in that holy-crap-these-hippies-are-weird way but I was always a fan of it if nothing else but for looking around to see the confused looks on the unknowing faces surrounding – perhaps due to having caught almost a third of the 22 total performances of it. The song typically showed up in the middle of or as the resolution to something else, most frequently in the middle of YEM but also oddly in the middle of Mockingbird and a couple of times in Bowie intros. While seemingly serious about resetting ones energy and stuff the VoL is really more joke than anything (just spin the 10.31.1994 version in the middle of Harpua if you have any doubt) what with it’s reference to “seven beats per second” that basic math will tell you is 420 beats per minute, stoner boy. Some will say this song is a waste of precious second set potential jam time but I argue that it is an example of when they are feeling loose and comfortable on stage which opens things up to any sort of possibility musically. It is in the vein of stuff like Catapult, Faht, Kung, and the other stuff that those not ‘in on the joke’ would have no frame of reference for in coming to a show for the first time since those ones don’t hit the setlist of the type of tape one would give to a newbie to prime them for a first time Phishing trip. So when they drop this bustout then follow it with one of those really wild Kungs (pretty sure there is a *ting* in there somewhere too) and then take that into Catapult that really sets a tone as to where their heads are on the evening — and also probably threw more than a few spunions upside down and sideways in the wake of that Jim jam. Then, as if to put an exclamation point on it even further they go from Catapult right into a raging Axilla that devolves into the Axilla II ending where the band throws in bits of Kung, shout outs to Lee Fordham and the rest of the Light Crew, and more madness as Trey riffs off of the “don’t shine that thing in my face” bit from Axilla II. With one last “Leeeeeee Fordham” that every time I hear it sounds to me like he is saying “Riiiiiiicola” out of one of those lozenge commercials they turn on a dime and drop into the intro the Harry Hood. Just go ahead and cue that video up as it is worth it and adds to the context of the performance greatly.

 

Perhaps you already know this version of the song based on the reputation it has deservedly gotten over the years but please indulge me here. This Hood encapsulates a lot about what we look for in Phish in one tidy 15+ minute segment from a show. Starting with the canonic ‘reggae’ intro the band is loose as Fish and Trey throw in more Lee Fordham nods and Mike accents with numerous *tings* of the fight bell. Moving to the lyrics Trey replaces the “Harry” line with “LEE!” as Fish answers with “FORDHAM!” (in my opinion, a much better exchange than the annoying call and response we cannot seem to outgrow that started at Red Rocks ’96 based on a fan flier). A faithful and true run through the composed section mellows the mood a bit and then we are off into the build towards the jam. The band and crowd are rising together here, all but willing this thing to explode even before we get to the last “Thank you Mr. Hoooooooood”. The band moves into the jam with a quiet feel and a ton of patience as Trey assumes his prototypical staring-out-into-the-yonder-that-actually-is-the-ceiling-of-the-venue pose, leading with delicate lines as Page adds color on the electric piano. The move along here for a few minutes in building the beautiful climb towards the peak we all know is coming and the pace quickens as Trey noodles around. As you whirl around with eyes closed and smiling that uncontrollable grin this song tends to evoke Trey stops searching and holds a note (innocently at first) as the rest of the band continues to jam. After about 30 seconds he is playing at pulling the note out of his guitar and soon he is using his pick hand to egg on the crowd as the other three are just going nuts all while that note sustains. The crowd catches wind and adds to the energy as Trey head bangs and pumps his fist in response to the jam Fish, Mike, and Page are throwing down and by about the two minute mark of this you start wondering how long they can go with this. The anticipation continues to build as Trey holds the note for another minute, finally coming back into the lead after more than three minutes. The crowd erupts in response and then the four continue to jam with Trey shredding on top of the ordered cacophony of major key rage they have constructed. By the time they come back for the end refrain you can sense that everyone has been waiting to exhale and step down from your tippy toes, offering up that release we all sought. Not willing to provide any break for the weary they come out of the end swirl by punching into Suzy Greenberg to the elation of the crowd. This Suzy has more Lee Fordham fun, a La Grange tease by Trey in the first break before Page’s organ bit, and then an Axilla tease by Trey in the next break before Page’s piano solo. It is the sort that caps a hot set with the callbacks to earlier goings down. It sure feels like this will be the set closer but then the band pops out front for a little a cappella to send everyone off into the night, busting out Amazing Grace for the first time this tour since they last played it to encore the first night of the Clifford Ball. Heading then to the encore there are a ton of songs they could potentially play here so you have to wonder what is up when they count off and wait for Fish to get it going. But when he does he starts into one of those oh-so-familiar classic rock intros that were the soundtrack of our collective FM radio youth, knocking the beat and cowbell of the Grand Funk Railroad rocker We’re An American Band a song that is obviously a debut for the band on this night. With its raucous tone and referential lyrics (you know, that whole verse about Omaha and the Saturday night thing?) it is a perfect choice to send everyone out into the night on another high note. And after that almost fully segued, scorching hot second set (save for the Amazing Grace) I know I would have been skipping and hooting and hollering as we made our way out into the cold night. The energy that comes from that kind of experience can stay with you for a while which is obviously a part of why we do this time and again — and it might benefit you if your next move was to get into the car to start the trek down to Memphis for the show two nights later.

 

Judging from the past two shows, we have hit another upward swing on this tour as the band is gelling something fierce and really connecting with the crowd as well. Sure, the first sets are still (and will continue to be) largely energy/song-based affairs but that’s not unexpected in any era. But carrying that energy forward into the more open waters of these second sets is something that this band does so well — and that makes the belly flop in Ames all the more telling as an outlier. With a dozen more shows to come on this tour and the entire West Coast swing still waiting things are heading to another peak with this show pushing the potential higher as we go. Considering that as I mentioned above this was their sixth night of some form of performance in a row it speaks to their interest and intent for there to be not a single misstep here. This show is one of those that combines all of the things that make Phish who they are: execution, energy, connection, humor, hijinx, open jamming, bustouts, covers, and more. I know that the ‘weird’ setlist inclusions in that mid second set might not turn on the newbiest of newbs but as a snapshot of this band tonight’s show is a pretty strong option for one to give to a friend who asks you what this band is all about. They may not get IT at first but once they hear other shows and then come back to this one they will thank you and perhaps say something like “yeah, now I understand why you gave me that tape” assuming you still give your friends cassettes which would be weird because your friend would probably look at you funny and throw it back in your face because who even has a tape deck anymore besides that one dude who always seems to have good drugs but who still drives a beat up 80s Subaru that is definitely being held together by the stickers that cover about 90% of the once painted rear end that screams to cops “please pull me over” and what was I talking about? Eh, you probably got the point there. Your takeaways from this one are the Hood, Jim, and Bowie for the first tier and then the La Grange and We’re an American Band for the second. I would say throw in the VoL->Kung->Catapult->Axilla section too but let’s keep those to ourselves and besides you are spinning that whole second set through anyway so who cares what I put on that player on the sidebar. Rest up now because this tour is on fire pretty much from here on out and Memphis has some seriously big guns and a fun sit-in coming up next.

Always Shouts Out Something Obscene – St. Louis, MO 11.15.1996

Phish — Kiel Center — St. Louis, MO 11.15.1996

I  Wilson>Divided, Bouncin’, Zero, PYITE>Caspian, Ginseng, Train Song, CDT, Taste>Cavern

II  Makisupa->Maze, McGrupp>Melt, TMWSIY>Avenu Malkenu, MMGAMOIO>Mike’s, Monkey>Mean Mr. Mustard>Paug

E  Funky Bitch

 

After getting the heck out of central Iowa quite quickly Phish headed southeast towards their Friday night date in St. Louis to play a large arena show here for the first time ever. By this time the band already had a very strong history with the Gateway to the West as they had been coming here practically every year since they played three in the area in 1992. The first visit was to the now closed (shocker) Mississippi Nights on 03.30.1992 playing a fun, banter-filled show with the obligatory teases and SL not to mention Trey dedicating BBFCFM to Brett Hull and mentioning that they had put the entire St. Louis Blues hockey team on the guest list (no idea if any of them showed up but one of Trey’s childhood friends, Roger Holloway of “just like Roger he’s a crazy little kid” fame was definitely there based on banter). This show also has a Tweezer inflected by one of personal favorite classic rock cover tunes ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ (originally by Status Quo but give me the Camper Van Beethoven version any day) and the rare Fish Fun Time sandwich of HYHU preceding and Cold as Ice bookending it. Later that summer on 08.02.1992 they played a single set as opener for Santana at Riverport Amphitheatre, the venue they have played more than any other in Missouri (and kind of important in phishtory what with that kinda awesome Gin that went down 07.29.1998…). They capped the year in this market on 12.04.1992 back at Mississippi Nights (for the final time that Phish would perform there) with a show big on SL and high energy rocking, most notably in the Possum from that second set – check out the fun Forbin tale here as well. Returning in 1993 they had graduated to the larger American Theater, one of those great, old vaudeville houses of the early 20th century that is, you guessed it, now closed. There were two shows here with the first taking place on 04.14.1993 and if you haven’t ever heard this one I highly recommend you check it out. There are some really interesting setlist calls here like Stash->Kung->Stash, some acoustic Kung-Horse madness, and YEM->Spooky->YEM (calling back to the YEM from Gunnison about a month prior) and the white hot playing that typifies that second leg of Spring ’93. There’s a fun Harpua story here and tons of teases as well if that is your bag. Oh, and Trey’s friend Roger was back again this time getting up on stage to ask his girlfriend to marry him (she said yes) prompting the band to play ACDC Bag in his honor afterwards. That summer they hit this venue in full stride of that August run, dropping a show on 08.16.1993 that was for quite some time considered to be pretty legendary what with the big jams in Possum, Reba, Foam, Melt, Mike’s, Ice, and Paug along with everything else that goes down here (including a Sparkle with a unique little intro jam that, sadly, does not result in the FMS). Clearly, this was a venue they enjoyed playing. Continuing to grow in popularity, when Phish returned in 1995 they had moved up to the Fabulous Fox Theatre for their show on 11.23.1994 dropping a show best known for the beautiful Tweezer and the YEM->VoL->YEM they threw down in the second set. For 1995 their sole visit would be back at Riverport Amphitheatre, this time headlining for a full show on 06.13.1995. This show perhaps suffers in comparison to the shows that surround it considering that they stopped here between the great pair at Red Rocks and the one that follows which just happens to include The Mud Island Tweezer but it does have a really nice Reba and the “jazz version” of Golgi, according to Trey. Based on the information above it is pretty clear the band has done well here but whether that is due to a great crowd, stops generally coming mid-tour once they have hit their stride, or some other less obvious reason remains a mystery.

 

That gets us up to speed in advance of our show here tonight, their only time playing the Kiel Center. Before I get going, note that there is full video of both sets out there for this one:

set one

set two

So feel free to watch/listen along as you read as if that is physically possible. It is worth it to witness Mike’s purple shirt and sparkly pants and Trey showing off the guns with the sleeveless t-shirt along with the fun had at the end of the second set which we will get to in due time.

 

Seemingly brushing the prior night’s performance off almost immediately the band comes out with a rocking Wilson, getting the crowd engaged from the start with the call/response we all love to hate these days. This drops into Divided Sky, something they have done 15 times – and six times to open a show. Just because I was curious I discovered that the only song to more frequently come out of Wilson is actually pretty surprising considering it is a now rare cover: Peaches en Regalia (18 times). Anyway, the Divided here is soaring, clean, and ripping (pause is 1:15 tonight) and does nothing to lower the energy in the room as a result. After bounding through Bouncin’ Around the Room and rocking out Character Zero Trey kicks into PYITE, making this five straight crowd-pleasing tunes to start the set. After pretty well nailing the entirety of Punch they end up in Prince Caspian, giving us another of the sort of version you could expect from the song in this era. It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t really do much but sap the energy out of the room for a few minutes. Which I guess many would say is bad… Well, they ramp right back up for the bluegrass slot with Ginseng Sullivan tonight, getting the sing-a-long going before really bringing the set to a momentum-ending point by playing yet another Train Song. Okay, fine, whatever, you probably needed to pee by now anyway if you didn’t take the opportunity during Caspian so no biggie. As generally happens they follow this ballad with something a bit more fiery which tonight is Chalkdust Torture. This one is the classic type I rager. Next up in the penultimate slot for the set is Taste and while I do like this song I am kinda getting tired of it by now. This makes 12 appearances for the song in 22 shows with only one other song anywhere near that total as Zero also sits at 12, setting up the competition to see which song will be crowned as most-shoved-down-our-earholes this tour. I shouldn’t complain because at least they haven’t overplayed something far worse as the end jam is always smile-inducing for me. This runs into the set closing Cavern (yay) and we are off to wander the halls of this NHL team venue, pondering the meaning of the “fifteen minute break”.

 

Now, that first set doesn’t look like anything overly special and realistically it is not in comparison to some of the real juggernauts over the years but even just listening to it in relation to that Ames show you can tell things are different somehow. The crowd has something to do with it but it may have had more to do with the ‘trick’ the band was about to pull which you can partially figure out from the setlist above. Trey has a bit of a tell in that way, often being a bit more giddy or musically involved when things are afoot, be it an overt trick to be played or simply things that unfold as the set progresses. This is easy to say in retrospect particularly in going through a whole tour where you see the patterns that emerge but in the moment it is definitely not something that you will expect that the crowd will notice outright. So with the crowd being none the wiser Phish came back out to start the second set and immediately dropped into Makisupa Policeman (key word: “stink kind”) you had to know that something was up at the very least. As if to give away the end, Trey at first sets a loop that is quite similar to the Maze intro before the high hat which could easily have caused some to be expecting that song to open instead of the Maki they jump into instead. The song has been played 96 times and only 16 of those have been set openers with seven of those being 2nd set openers so you could excuse someone for making that sort of assumption. Go ahead and look at the stats on that as it is a pretty reliable indicator of a hot set to come. They drop into a fun little jam here with Trey adding some mini-kit fills (whistle wah and the water drip one) and Mike playing the bassline of what sure sounds like Dog Log while Page toys around for a bit before setting up the transition for a full segue to Maze (interestingly, of the 7 times that pairing has happened 5 are set openers). Par for the course, this Maze rips hard with Page taking his time on the organ before Trey takes it to the stratosphere at the peak. Next up is McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, one of favorites of the Gamehendge suite primarily due to that end Page section which tonight does not disappoint. After that bit of ivory tickling they head out into Split Open and Melt, giving us our second vehicle already in this set. While this Melt doesn’t turn sideways into a full type II jam Trey does lead his way through some directed searching around the Melt theme which results in a dirty jam that while linear pays off quite nicely.

 

After those two shredders Trey gets a bit tender by starting up TMWSIY, pairing it with its partner Avenu Malkenu as one would expect. What one might not expect though is that instead of returning to the ManWho theme after that Yiddish Funk they start up My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own. You may be saying “so what” and that is a perfectly valid response but we here at LIMR Enterprises pride ourselves on bringing you the nittiest and grittiest of useless facts about this band so here goes. Every time Avenu Malkenu has been played it has been preceded by ManWho (that’s 76 performances) and these two songs have never not been played together (i.e. in the same show). Traditionally, we expect the band to return to ManWho after Avenu Malkenu but the data suggests that this might not always be a wise assumption to make. In 20 of its 79 performances Avenu Malkenu has not returned to ManWho though in one case (11.28.1992) after playing Maze they went back to ManWho to close that open door. It is notable that in most cases where they do not return to it the set in question ends up being quite memorable though considering this could also be said for many of the sets in which the full sandwich happens that’s not exactly a hard and fast Phish Rule to make money betting parlays on (there are Phish parlay betting lines, right?). Tonight marks the only time they go into MMGAMOIO instead as with its relative infrequency the only two songs to have had it occur for them are Bag (2 times) and Mike’s Song (3). All that to say that it is still a bit surprising to hear when they do go elsewhere — and I say this as someone who has managed to catch four instances of this in the 11 times I’ve seen them play these songs. Well, whatever it all means they play MMGAMOIO (37 shows since the previous one) to give us a bluegrass tune in each set (thanks, guys) before heading on into the Mike’s Song you kind of figure would be coming by now if you have been paying attention to the setlist. After the lyrics they head into the first jam and out come the tramps (something I thought was done by this point but I guess my memory on that is a bit foggy). I’ve read things that say that this is a short or even uninspired first jam to which my response is “have you ever tried improvising live music while bouncing a synchronized choreography on mini trampolines?” and I have yet to have anyone be able to answer yes to that query. Of course, I haven’t exactly asked very many people either…

 

Trey and Mike hop down from the tramps to move into the real meat of this jam as Kuroda fills the stage with smoke as was par for the lighting course for this jam in this time period. The overarching feel here is not too dissimilar from the main jam template they have established on this tour as they get into a chugging, guitar-driven jam. Typically as these jams have progressed we have seen Trey hop over to the mini-kit to give room to Page and Mike but tonight he stays on lead, going big all while Mike drops big bombs in counterpoint. This jam is a classic take on the second jam, erupting into a noisy back end (Mike voices approval with at least two *tings* of the fight bell) that never comes back to the ‘traditional’ Mike’s finish but instead kind of abruptly resolves into nothingness. This is the peak jam of the show and the third worthwhile one this set. After a quick breath Trey starts into another mini-bustout as we get the first Sleeping Monkey of the tour (25 shows) which continues the motif we have going thus far. If you were watching the video you might have noticed that when they came out to remove the tramps at the end of that Mike’s jam a piece of paper is placed in front of Trey’s monitor which ends up being important in paying off the trick they have been building all night. The band starts into a familiar melody that might not be easy to pick up at the start as Trey banters about thanks from “myself, Mike, Moses over there, Mr. McConnell… oh, and Mimi” before noting that the set has been “brought to you by the letter ‘M‘ and the number ‘420’” which is a fun reference to Sesame Street as well as nodding back to the set which began with their ‘weed tune’ and started the run of songs with M featured in the title somehow. Without knowing their internal shorthand for each song which probably belies it even more you can still see the pattern they have put together. As the yawn of realization washes over you they start into that familiar-ish song with Trey taking a peek at the lyric sheet he was brought to stay on track as they debut the Beatles’ tune Mean Mr. Mustard! The crowd loves it but even more so when from stage left a crouched over, hobbling, draped in cape man makes his way to the stage, in time with the song’s “such a mean old man” chorus (if this were pro wrestling and we had some context you could argue this to be the entrance music to the ‘heel’ with the crowd screeching and gasping and shouting out “oh mah gawd! they are playing his music!! here he comes!! EEEEEEEEKKK!!!). And who should that mean old man be but the band’s old friend and once frequent collaborator (both musically and in prankiness) John Popper. He throws off the cape to reveal his trademark tactical harmonica vest as the crowd erupts in recognition and at that moment the band jumps into the Weekapaug Groove you figure is coming but can’t really expect based on this whole ‘M‘ thing they have working this set.

 

Now, there are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to sit-ins with Phish. We have covered this a bit in the past but in general the dynamic of having additional people on stage with Phish doesn’t always work particularly when the sitter-in is a “lead” type player who needs to be in front of whatever is going down. This often causes fans to make sweeping declarations about never wanting anyone to sit in with the band — except for horns, of course, because who doesn’t like what horn accompaniment can add to the mix? Then you have the folk who say ‘bring it on’ in any form as that is the root of this collaborative, improvisational thing the band has fostered over the years. Or you could have that friend who doesn’t opine but takes the ‘wait and see’ approach before either effusing praise or crapping on whoever deigned to sully their religious experience with the band. I can see the logic of these varied viewpoints and I personally probably sit more with the last person there except for that last bit because in the end while I may have a transformative experience at a show I’m not laying blame on a guest musician if I personally do not make that connection on a particular evening. Which brings us to Mr. Popper.

 

Being that both Phish and Blues Traveler came up in the same period of time, in the same general circle of musicians, and even with some members having grown up together at the same prep schools it makes sense that there would be a connection between the two bands. Recently there have been some anecdotes to come out about the ever-going prank war between the two bands as Mr. Popper has a new book out to promote. Personally, my favorite one is this from the ’93 H.O.R.D.E. Tour:

The set-closer on July 27th was You Enjoy Myself and it featured many special guests joining Phish onstage, including Chan Kinchla from Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews and members of his band and members of Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. During the traditional “mini-trampoline” section of YEM, a true to life dummy of John Popper (complete with his trademark hat and harmonica vest) was lowered in a wheelchair (Popper was confined to a wheelchair that whole summer due to a motorcycle wreck) from the ceiling toward a giant trampoline while Popper jammed along offstage. The joke, based on Popper’s grand personage, was that the cable holding the chair and dummy “broke” and the effigy of Popper crashed through the trampoline and thunked onto the stage. The musicians onstage then shocked the audience by attacking “Popper” as the harmonica wailed on.

or perhaps the time on the ’92 H.O.R.D.E. tour when he came out to jump on the tramps during YEM and proceeded to bust through it on first hop resulting with him leaving the stage dejectedly, though some would contend that this was not a prank so much as a result of his size at that time being too much for the springs to bear. But the roots of their collaboration on more than just humor as members of both bands have shared the stage with each other on numerous occasions. I’m not going to go through all of the times Popper has joined Phish (as an aside, if you don’t know that Ritz Power Jam show from Spring ’93 I am a big fan and promoter of it and will now refer you to the post I wrote about the Roseland shows which include a Popper sit-in as well) but suffice it to say he has brought his harmonica stylings to the Phish stage a lot. A person’s appreciation for his sit-ins is, I believe, directly related to your tolerance for his brand of mouth harp playing which can be either fascinating or unbelievably grating depending on the ear of the listener and because within only a few notes it is plainly clear who is playing harmonica when he is involved… for better or worse. Realistically, the majority of his appearances with Phish are for tunes that are pretty straight forward blues/rock template songs (the most common are Funky Bitch, JJLC, Fire, and GTBT) which means that you don’t have to think much about where it is headed or worry that he will be able to keep up. Heck, Trey even pulled a section out of the old arrangement for Reba and added some of Popper’s lyrics for a song called Don’t Get Me Wrong that they played together three times in 1990 before it disappeared… forever!

 

So when Popper threw off that cape you had to be wondering what we were in for here, particularly with that Paug just hanging out there waiting to be played. Surprisingly, he hops right on and crushes his solo in the first section of Paug, getting the crowd amped with the first run to the peak and setting the tone for this jam. He and Trey size each other up musically as they move through this one and unlike some sit-ins his playing never gets in the way but rather adds to it. After some hugs and such everyone departs the stage for the encore break and you know Popper is coming back out, which he does, and then we have a not surprising at all take on Funky Bitch. This song lends itself well to this sort of sit-in where both Popper and Trey and take their big solos and in watching the video you even get to see them slap fives during one of the verse sections in acknowledgement of how good it all comes off. Sure, neither of these hit the jam heights of the Mike’s earlier on but they are big time crowd pleasing rockers and sometimes that is what you need to cap a really great show on a Friday night in the middle of America.

 

I’ll be honest, I never had a lot of love for this show prior to spinning it a few times in getting this write-up put together. I guess I had brushed over all of the great playing here for the gimmick without realizing just how solid this one is throughout. And the contrast to the preceding show is so striking you almost have to laugh and wonder why they sandbagged that one so badly (though we covered that already…). Honestly, I had a bit of a hard time picking out the takeaways here in the end because pretty well everything is nailed. In terms of pure highlights I guess I have to narrow it down to Maki->Maze, Mike’s, Mean Mr. Mustard>Paug, and Funky Bitch for the first tier with McGrupp coming in as the second tier option. I could probably add the Melt as well but considering that there have been better versions already this tour we’ll leave it off. I definitely recommend spinning this show and watching the video if you have the opportunity because after the little lull there earlier this week the band has caught fire once more… and it really only gets better from here!

 

We’re All In The Bathtub Now – Lexington, KY 11.07.1996

Phish — Rupp Arena — Lexington, KY 11.07.1996

I  CDT, Weigh>Rift>Guelah, Stash, Waste, Guyute, Free>Tela, Zero

II  Suzy>Gin->HYHU>Bike>HYHU, YEM

E  Frankenstein

 

Every once in a while there will come a point on a tour when the band has “one of  those nights”. For many bands, this might have a negative connotation, as “one of those nights” could mean the lead singer is off his ‘meds’ again (or back on them…), the musicians are actively fighting each other on stage (possibly related to the meds thing), the PA or other gear didn’t cooperate, or they run up against an unruly crowd that really just wants to tear shit apart and has no time for whatever drivel is being poured into their ear holes. For Phish, “one of those nights” usually refers to a show we now treat as canon be it for seamlessly strung together segues, massive bustouts, or big time legendary jams that are known as much by their phish portmanteau or venue moniker as any other way of denoting them. These often take place in ‘skip show’ locales or on odd nights of the week or in other seemingly innocent circumstances as the band has made a habit of not really coming up really big when the fans expect it but then smacking us upside the head with a total smoke show somewhere else just to keep us honest. It can be annoying trying to figure out where the real heaters will drop but I suppose that’s why the adage of the ‘next show is the best show’ rings so true… With all this in mind, it was then that on Thursday, November 7th, 1996 the band came to Lexington, Kentucky for the first (and final) time and by the time they left the stage one of those nights had happened once more.

 

But before we get to the music from this night we need to do our thing about reflecting back. If this is a feature you really aren’t into then you are in luck because along with this singular performance in Lexington the band has only ever visited Kentucky four other times (to play a show, of course. I know not of whether they have ever vacationed there or otherwise passed through the Bluegrass State). All four of those visits were to Louisville with the first being on 04.16.1993 at the McCauley Theatre. Note that while all Phish literature refers to the theatre by this name it is really the Brown Theatre that the band had played considering that the original Macauley’s Theatre was razed in 1925 which is also the timing of when the Brown Theatre opened. The confusion lies in the fact that after renovations in 1971 and a sale to the Louisville Board of Education that theater was renamed Macauley’s Theatre which persisted until a new infusion of funds and acquisition by the Louisville Fund for the Arts in 1997 with the re-christening of the venue as the W.L.Lyons Brown Theatre when it reopened in 1998. Waaaaaaay more than you cared to know about that but this is a venue with two pretty solid Phish shows having occurred inside so there.

 

That first one sits in an interesting period of Phish’s upward trajectory, being part of the second leg of the Spring ’93 tour when they were fully into breaking new ‘speed jazz’ ground in their jamming style which shows up clearly in the Weekapaug Groove. There’s a bunch of teases, some banter, and a fun Free Bird-tinged Gumbo in the encore. Listen in Mike’s for a bit of what would become Simple less than a year from this show. About four months later Phish was back here during that fantastic month of August ’93 to drop a classic show on 08.15.1993 that you should really spin straight through but just in case you cannot do that please do check out the fantastic Stash, Tweezer, and Hood from this show (check out the wild Mockingbird story and performance too if you can). A little more than a year later Phish returned at the larger Palace Theatre, playing a show on 10.10.1994  which is best known for the quite type II Tweezer but also has a banjo sit-in by Steve Cooley and more of the solid greatness of Fall ’94. Then on 10.29.1995 they played Louisville for the final time at the now gone Louisville Gardens arena for a pre-Halloween show full of wonderfully dark jamming and the playfulness of a band on top of their game and messing with everyone’s heads in the lead up to the big night up in Chicago a couple of nights later. Listen for ‘Beat It’ teases and check out a big time Melt, a demonic Bowie, a quite fun Ice->Kung->Ice, and the only performance of Shaggy Dog between the bustout after 450 shows on 05.06.1992 until it came back 574 shows after this night on 06.22.2012. And that’s it for Kentucky! Now on to the last time they have played here…

 

Here in the sixteenth show of the tour the band is firing on all cylinders and from the opening notes of Chalkdust Torture you can tell they are raring to go. They run through this one quickly, rocking it out and getting everyone moving as the song tends to do. They follow this with the tour debut (something we will see more of tonight) of Weigh, playing it pretty straight though if you listen closely you might catch a bit of Trey using his wah pedal in a way you don’t normally get with this song. This will be important later. This segues into a ripping version of Rift which then goes right into Guelah Papyrus. The execution here is a tad sloppy but works out in the end and then we get our first jam potential on the night with Stash. There is nothing revealing here but the T&R build is fine enough in getting through. Continuing to vacillate the pace with song choices (similar to the prior night’s show) we get Waste for the first (and only) true ballad of the show. Now headed back from the bathrooms you get to hear the telltale intro to the tour debut of Guyute giving you the chance to either dive in and throw down with the other pig heads or maybe walk a bit and grab a snack if you and your head will allow it. This is played well if predictably and then we get the bombast of Free to keep the rocking going. As with Stash this is fine enough but no new ground is covered and then we are into Tela for yet another tour debut. Trey really goes off in the end solo here, nailing all those notes in bringing it to its satisfying peak. A crunchy yet contained Character Zero wraps things up for the first set and now you and your friends start to wonder what big jam highlight you might get in the second set. I mean, the last few shows had pretty average first sets coupled with some major second set jams so you had to think the pattern would hold… right?

 

I won’t just leave that question hanging. With the benefit of hindsight, if you saw that second set list above these days you’d be screaming and hollering and tweeting and anything else you could to express your whatthefuckery about it until you got your hands on the tapes to hear it yourself. Excepting the rare mechanical-issue-shortened set, they simply did not play four song sets back in this era (I don’t count HYHU, yo.) – not that they do much of it now either. Yeah, there’s stuff like the Fleezer set but that and the few others like it were considered to be so rare as to not be something you would ever see again. Heck, even the Tahoe Tweezer set with its 36 minute Tweezer has six songs. So when this setlist came out – and remember this is in the time when except for the most widely circulated tapes you had to sometimes wait months to hear a show – people went nuts. I wrote the dang thing down that night and spent pretty much the entirety of the drive to Champaign the next day looking at it and alternately laughing or shaking my head. And the great thing is that it isn’t some gimmicky or overly unapproachable abstract “music” that they play here (no comment on vac solos and their relative abstraction, thank you very much). It isn’t even as if they dove deep hard and fast, heck they opened up with Suzy Greenberg of all songs! But that Suzy gets a bit of extra mustard when Trey hops on the mini-kit for a bit to let Page take an even longer solo, showing that from the start this set is not about keep with the norm.

 

The next song, Bathtub Gin, starts up and you are thinking, “oh, nice… I really like when they play this as a second set vehicle. I hope they have some fun here!” which pretty much becomes quite the understated expectation as we move along. I say that because pretty much as soon as the finish up the lyrics and head into the jam (around the five minute mark of that lovely remaster I linked there) Trey moves away from the Gin theme immediately. Over the next several minutes he will continually come back to Gin to stir the pot but the lead here is melodic and forward-moving as Trey offers up several different ideas over the groove set up by the rest of the band. He soars with Page pounding away on the baby grand, evoking Gin while also being completely new music. At various times his leads seem to hint at a variety of teases (I swear at one point he is playing the melody to Bad Company’s Silver, Blue, and Gold – the “don’t forsake me cuz I love you” bit), none of them necessarily overt, but in the end it is all heading up to the end peak you know is coming sooner rather than later. But you’re wrong! The peak never resolves (this is a good thing) and then Trey moves over to the mini-kit, allowing Page to take charge in the second phase of the jam. He plays around with all of his toys, offering up a pastiche of various keyboard sounds as Mike offers up his own ideas to counterpoint Page’s playing. They ride this percussive pocket for several minutes with Page in charge then eventually Trey moves back over to guitar as the band starts to head yet again to the end peak. The band is far afield from Gin at this stage and the jam gets bigger in that way that some of the best ones do, flowing into a rocking section that feels like it could fall right into Reprise at any point. It also feels like it could become 2001 or even the bustout of The Real Me, the one time partner with Gin back on 12.29.1995. Once more they forego the obvious peak to stay in this raging groove and go to what we would now expect to be transtion, dropping down a section first denoted by the odd loops Trey sets. Then he and Page hit on a repeating phrase that has the uneasy feel of a Buried Alive jam of sorts, adding tension to the jam. Even with some cadence changes by Fish Trey persists until finally relenting as Mike leads into an eerie place. You know they are moving on again but it isn’t plainly clear which direction they will go next. Will it be another section in this masterful jam? Maybe the eventual move back to Gin to wrap this up with a bow?

 

No, instead we head to Hold Your Head Up, signalling Fish Fun Time for only the third time this tour (I think my memory is right there). The Fish tune tonight is the tour debut of the Syd Barrett classic Bike, allowing Fish to do his thing while also providing the breather everyone needed after the nearly 35 minute non-stop start to this set. As an aside, I can tell you that by the time they started up Bike I was personally just giggling in awe of what had just happened. The tapes tell the tale but live that was something other worldly to behold. Following Bike Trey gives a little banter about their boy Norton Charleston Heston and then they start up You Enjoy Myself to the delight of the crowd. After that Gin you have to think they will take it a bit easy here and maybe set this up to lead into the eventual set closer. And that is reasonable thinking but remember, this is one of those nights so things like reasonableness aren’t really applicable. The pre-Nirvana build is nailed and all through the Nirvana phase they kill it just adding more to the anticipation of the explosion to come. The crowd senses it too, almost begging the band to get to the “Boy!” line and once they do a full-on dance party breaks out. Trey lets the Phish funk ooze out here, adding some wah’d out accents behind the organ and bass as they work through the Uffizi lines and then once they go to the jam it is a funk jam not like previous versions of the song. After the trampoline section Trey lays back to let Page continue on the organ, opting for sparse rhythm fills that are heavy on the wah pedal. Mike solos here a bit, Page plays a ‘wobbly’ synth line and Trey eventually hits a tone you should start to get used to because we will hear it a bunch from here on out this tour. Listen around the 13:15 mark at the point where they do a little stop/start action and you will hear it. As far as I know this is the first time he has ever done this but from this point forward it pops up in at least one jam in pretty much every show. They ride the groove pocket for a bit more, giving the kids the chance to shake their bones some more and then Trey climbs the mountain, riding a lead line that isn’t too far off from Quantegy (albeit at a faster pace here) if you recall that odd ditty from his first solo album which would come out a couple of years from this night. That doesn’t last long though as he takes the lead to the peak but rather than going full to it and dropping out for the D&B he comes back to a chugging riff, allowing Mike and Fish to come in more organically as he eventually drops out. This D&B is pure gravy to the point where the crowd starts clapping along, giving Mike time to get out there for a bit after riding the groove pretty much all night. Eventually we get the obligatory VJ (it’s a pretty interesting one, to be honest and the crowd is with the band the entire time) and then they depart, having just dropped a four song set and two jams of 27+ minutes EACH in this wonderful set. I still recall looking at my watch as the VJ started wondering how it got so late so quick. I love that feeling. So they come back out for the encore, tear up Frankenstein, and leave us all there wondering how we will be able to leave the venue much less gather our marbles to hit the road on the path to the next show. Let’s just say we weren’t exactly in a rush to get out of there that night.

 

I think it is pretty clear that this is a show that I consider to be a pretty big night in my personal Phish life. The first set is, admittedly, largely average but not bad by any means. But once you get into that second set you can plainly hear that something is up even from the start. They have some playful banter and then just dive into a set that has but one moment for breath in the hilarity of Fish Fun Time. The Gin that they play here is not the first time they have gone deep with the song – far from it! – but the way they stick with it and never bail after shifting into at least four different phases of the jam is quite important. I believe that this jam doesn’t happen before RiL and certainly without having had Perazzo help them out with getting comfortable in the groove space. At no time does the jam feel rushed or as if they are looking to bail. They simply try out various ideas all while keeping that pocket moving forward. Sure, there are other Gins that I tend to spin more frequently but this is canon. This is a Gin that is so revered it is known by the venue in which it was played. Say “The Rupp Gin” to any fan who knows their Phish and you will immediately get praise and adulation for this piece of music. That’s not to say it has to be your favorite or that it is the “best” (whatever that means) but that it is so iconic as to really need no further introduction than by name. And then in its wake you have an absolute throw down of a YEM, one that gives us a glimpse of the proto-cowfunk already being worked out on stage by the band here just a few shows after their first big adventure in groove on Halloween. That YEM is completely undersold (probably due to the Gin, of course) and really deserves so much more praise than it gets. I have really been looking forward to writing this review since the tour started for me and now that I am here I am even more excited about having had the opportunity to spin this gem again and again to really get to the core of it. This is a wonderful high point in this tour but that takes nothing away from the great stuff we have already heard — and for what is yet to come. So let’s wrap things up by saying that your takeaways are the entire second set on this night (I’m throwing the HYHU>Bike>HYHU in there because it really just fits so well in the context of the set). And let’s revel in the fact that there are still so many great jams to come… starting with the next night in Champaign!

 

–|–

 

Since I am also posting this on what happens to be an important day in Phishtory (Fish’s birthday) I’d be remiss to not at least mention it. Happy 51st to my partner in February 19th birthdays, Mr. Norton Charleston Heston, Henrietta, the tiny beast boy, Tubbs, Moses DeWitt, the octopus, John Fishman. Here’s to many more for our favorite oddball, mumu-wearing beat monster.

The Feeling Returns Whenever We Close Our Eyes – West Palm Beach, FL 11.02.1996

Phish — Coral Sky Amphitheater — West Palm Beach, FL 11.02.1996

I  Ya Mar, Julius, Fee->Taste, Cavern, Stash, Lizards, Free, JBG

II  C&P->Lope, Waste, Hood>ADITL, Adeline

E  Funky Bitch

 

After a long, late night spent celebrating one of the high holy days of the Phish calendar, the band dipped south first for a night off and then for the lone outdoor show of this Fall Tour in West Palm Beach, FL. This was the third (and seemingly last) time the band would play in this town, opting for larger venues and locales in the future. The first time they played here was during the 13th annual Sunfest on 04.28.1994, apparently as an alternative band scheduled to draw those hard to please college kids if this article is to be believed. After Phish’s one set performance here (there isn’t much meat to be found but it is a fun listen all the same) Trey sat in with Blues Traveler during their headliner set. Throw in a bunch of other bands like Los Lobos, Huey Lewis & the News, the Village People, and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers and that’s not a bad day for an $8 advance ticket! The next year they came back to play the WPB Auditorium on 11.16.1995 for a show most memorable for the Butch Trucks sit-in during the 2nd set closing Possum (which included a brief jam on the ABB tune One Way Out along with Fish on trombone and Trey’s mini kit), the debut cover of Brown Eyed Girl for the encore (with Jimmy Buffett joining in, no less), a Timber with a bit o’ MLB (you gotta believe it is there to hear it), a solid Hood, and a little jam nugget background music during the new chess match’s initial moves. More than just background fluff, that sit-in theme in this town held true one more time for this classic show from 11.02.1996, one so good the band released it on dvd a few years back. It can also be heard in its sbd glory on spotify. I have found a few uploads from the DVD that I will sprinkle into the setlist breakdown as well.

 

After that night off following their massively successful Halloween show the band hit the stage on November 2nd (a date with its own long and often legendary history) for what would be their singular outdoor performance of the Fall 1996 Tour, something Trey mentions in a bit of banter in the first set. They are again joined on stage by Karl Perazzo for this show and get right to the matter at hand by dropping a Ya Mar that will have you looking for the waiter to order up some umbrella drinks. They ride the island groove for a bit here, daring you to not dance along to the beats. Julius rocks in next and while the added percussion doesn’t really do a whole lot here Trey does take some big time rocker leads which is pretty typical, particularly here in ’96. The three slot breath catcher tune tonight is Fee which oddly works well with Karl on board and in the aftermath we segue directly into Taste. Tonight’s is perhaps not quite as big as the first one Karl sat in for on 10.29.1996 but it is still quite good. This is one of the first ones that I directly recall hearing the overt WTU? theme being played by Trey but I might just have to go back to ones prior to listen a bit closer. It is one of those things that once you hear it you always do and in this version it sticks out big time. The ending of Taste is a bit different as when they come back for the final lovely bit they instead hit the chop chords a few more times, eventually shutting it down without much fanfare. Here is where we get a bit of Trey banter, first introducing Karl to the crowd and pointing out how awesome it is for him to be on stage with them and then mentioning the bit about this being the only outdoor show of the tour.

 

Next up is Cavern, a song I have a personally complicated relationship with considering it is somehow one of my most frequently seen songs and always ALWAYS seems to chase me but I will say that this is a quite fun version what with the added percussion and a bit of an extended ending as they work into the beginning of Stash. Stash tonight is all pretty much “in bounds” but there is a bit (starting around the 7:00 mark or so) where Trey starts a theme that persists throughout the balance of the song (with others chiming in) which feels like it is pulled from a James Bond soundtrack. It isn’t a direct reference but the feeling is there. This is followed by a solid run through The Lizards (another song that doesn’t seem to need extra percussion but it again works) and then a crunchy, percussive (obviously!) Free that stays at home but provides for some solid rocking out. After a bit more banter from Trey we are on to the closer, Johnny B Goode. This rocker wraps up a pretty fun if not necessarily exploratory first set which fits with what we have seen so far this tour. They are stretching out a bit more than perhaps they would what with Karl on board but there is a lot left in the tank here. So over the setbreak you have to be wondering what is in store, including whether they might bring back one of those groovy new Talking Heads covers from the other night…

 

Well, you would have a short wait for the answer to that question as they come out for the start of the second set and dive right into Crosseyed & Painless. I’ll just put this nice video of it right here so that you can follow along. I highly recommend it if nothing else to see Fish concentrating so hard on the beat and the lyrics all at the same time but be prepared because it ends before the transition point jam. Ready? Okay! So in this second ever take on the song they are positively giddy going in as Trey counts it off all while showing that big shit eating grin he gets sometimes. As an aside, that term is pretty weird when you think about it. Like, at what point did someone see enough people with that look to coin the term? Keep the coprophagia out of my idioms, thank you very much, sir. So they work through the composed bits of the song with fervor, offering up some energetic “woo” and general excitement as they head to the groove jam to follow. They set up a chugging groove here with Trey going off on top of the beat Fish and Perazzo lay down all while Page accents with effects and Mike thumps away. At about the ten minute mark they drop into a psych groove section with Trey moving over to the mini kit such that Page is doing the soloing here along with the effects he has set up. Trey moves back to the guitar after a few minutes and from here we enter a phase of loops, scratching noises, and all manner of wild stuff — all with that groove killing it in the back. Trey is even playing his mini-kit while adding to the fray with his guitar at one point. At about the time on the video where they show a shot of Karl looking a little perplexed about where this is all headed and with loops layering on top of one another Trey is back on the mini-kit as Page and Mike drive the groove and then Trey goes back to the guitar to scratch out some lines that complement all of the other crazy going on. This is by far one of the grooviest yet out there psychedelic Phish jams you could put together. Things seem to be cooling down a bit and then Mike heads into a DEG-like bassline prompting Trey to follow along with more overt DEG teases. The frenzy softens a bit and we get some “still waiting!” lines but various band member thrown into the ether as they appear to be headed towards transition space but the groove persists! Eventually Fish relents and they drop into the noisy transition space and after a bit more waiting we get the tell tale intro to Run Like An Antelope.

 

Before we get there though let’s talk about this Crosseyed jam. Up to this point we have never heard a jam like this from Phish. Sure, there have been a ton of big, open, wildly psychedelic jams. But never had the groove been there and never in that almost-off-the-rails-but-still-fully-in-control way that you get with this jam. And I never mentioned it before but there is no peak here, nothing to point to as the crux moment. It is just big time from the start until they move into setting up the move out to Antelope. This Crosseyed shows the immediate takeaway of a band looking for the “next thing” while also drawing greatly from what got them there. And that in a nutshell is the beauty of Phish. In each evolution, while they push forward into forging a new sound they never fully let go of the past. Instead they take the best from that and layer it in with the new sound, creating something that might be outwardly seen as different but is still Phish through and through. That is something I think we all love about this band: that they can seemingly reinvent themselves over and over but still be Phish through it all.

 

Now, typically, people will combine the C&P and the Lope into “Crossalope” or some other witty portmanteau (we are a pretty clever group… sometimes) and I get why that happens as both are great but unlike in other mashup cases these are wholly separate jams. They just both kill it so hard you naturally want to make the connection. So the Antelope goes sideways in the best way for a few minutes with the percussion driving the thing forward as Trey shreds before they come out of it for the lyrics and ending. Trey replaces the standard “Marco Esquandolas” line for “Norton Charleston Heston” tonight. In his exuberance in the aftermath Fish calls out “Karl Perazzo!” which pretty well goes without saying here what with all he has brought to them in this brief stint with Phish. The time is now for a well deserved breather after that 40ish minutes of awesome so we get Waste which works here because those folks just needed to cool down for a bit and collect their thoughts and stuff, okay? Phish fans can’t be expected to rage for an entire set without some bit of cool down, can they? They can? Oh. Well, Waste has a nice solo at the end so maybe there were some folk raging the Waste? No? Let’s just move on then… Harry Hood follows Waste tonight and here is one where the video really adds something as in the composed build section where they are alternating the pattern of notes before heading to the lyric section you can tell Karl doesn’t know the unique beat, leading to a few laughing exchanges between various band members. Once they hit the jam though Karl is in the groove with the band and after a clean and engaging jam where Trey finds an interesting descending line we get one of those lovely, uplifting Hood peaks you read about in Bliss Peaks Weekly. What, yo don’t get that publication?

 

Hood segues into A Day in the Life for a faithful take on the Beatles classic and then we have the semi-obligatory a cappella tune to close the set which tonight is Adeline. I miss that song. Of all of the a cappella tunes over the years I think that is probably my favorite — and my daughter was thisclose to being named after the song as a result before we opted for another name on our list. Check out the video there as Karl comes to the front of the stage with the band and there’s a nice moment of thanks by Trey as they congregate (he also helps out with the time keeping by snapping along — ever the percussionist, that guy…). Now on to the encore, the band brings out another guest, our guy Butch Trucks from the Allman Brothers Band and resident of West Palm Beach as we discovered the year prior. They play Funky Bitch which has a bit of a (to borrow the phrase…) sneakers-in-the-dryer feelin the early part of the song as with so much percussion going on (Butch on Fish’s kit, Karl on his rig, and Fish on Trey’s mini-kit) it is really a bit much until they fall into line. This is a nice encore to cap this show and we are off on our way to the other big college town in Florida for the bookend show of our time with Perazzo Phish.

 

Over the years this show has become canon probably mainly due to that ridiculous Crosseyed jam and the overall great playing going on throughout. Unlike many of the best known shows in their history this show doesn’t have a big string of flawless segues or several centerpiece jams. It doesn’t have massive bustouts or crazy hijinx or anything more than just fantastically crisp playing by all involved. The addition of a fifth player does nothing to diminish the band’s sound here and shows why they had Karl on board for the mini run they did as he fits in so well with the type of jamming they wanted to explore at this time. I hold this show up as an example of the band being open to new things but also staying rooted in their unique sound, something we discussed a bit up above. The main takeaway from this show is what it allows for in the future, honestly, so any individual jam highlights are just gravy. Really tasty, thick and chunky gravy but gravy all the same. Those gravy jams tonight are Ya Mar, C&P->Lope, and Hood with Julius and Free as the second tier and Funky Bitch as the “why not, it’s unique” entry. With only one more Perazzo Phish to go we are about to leave the Southeast behind but there are fireworks to see before that move…

A World of Light- Atlanta, GA 10.31.1996

Phish — The Omni — Atlanta, GA 10.31.1996

I  Sanity>HTH>Disease>YEM, Caspian>Reba, Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Zero, SSB

II  Born Under Punches>C&P>The Great Curve, Once in a Lifetime>Houses in Motion->Seen and Not Seen->Listening Wind>The Overload

III  Brother, 2001>Maze, Simple->Swept Away>Steep>JJLC>Suzy

E  Frankenstein

 

Ah, Halloween. We have dipped our toe into this most holy of high Phish holidays before to break down the band’s performance of The Velvet Underground’s Loaded album but two years before that night — and the last time they had played Halloween before then — the band graced the stage of The Omni for an evening that would perhaps do more to shape the future trajectory of the band than any other single show. That’s a pretty hyperbolic statement to make on the surface but as we go along here I think it will be more clear why I speak so assuredly on this subject. Of course, I tipped my hand a bit on this front with the last show review but that was but that was almost like the preamble before the real speech. The opening band before the main attraction. The fluff… I’ll stop there. I think you get the point.

 

Phish by this time already had a quite healthy history in Hot ‘Lanta and Georgia in general, having first played in the state way back in February 1990 for a trio of shows supporting Widespread Panic. These shows (The Georgia Theatre in Athens for 02.01.1990 and 02.02.1990 and Atlanta’s Cotton Club — another in the long line of clubs now closed that Phish once played — on 02.03.1990) don’t offer us much considering all are one setters and none of them has a fully known setlist. They continued visiting these two venues later in 1990 and into 1991, playing seven shows alternating between the two rooms starting in Athens with 05.31.1990 opening for the Aquarium Rescue Unit, then 06.01.1990 for a fun one with ARU members sitting in (check out the Antelope and the Col. Hampton’s Ascent>Mockingbird), then 10.18.1990 for an okay one, 10.19.1990 for an odd single setter with two encores, 03.01.1991 for a show most notable for the DEG fun in a few tunes, 03.02.1991 opening for The Grapes (a 90s era ATL-based jam/rock band), and 07.26.1991 for a Giant County Horns tour show that ARU opened (please please check out the YEM and Tweezer from this one if nothing else!). The string was finally broken with their first visit to the Variety Playhouse (though the Athens/Atlanta streak was still intact!) for 07.27.1991, a single set show opening for ARU that marked the end of the famed GCH Tour (and another with a double encore). They returned to the Variety on 11.09.1991 for a show best known for the ‘gospel My Sweet One’ then back to Athens (for the last time ever…) for the fun 11.12.1991 show that has two quite lengthy encores (must be some great cheering going on back then at these shows to ellict all these double encores…). The band’s last visit to the Variety Playhouse came the following Spring on 03.28.1992 for a show best know as the “Flood Show” as they had a quite abbreviated 2nd set where they performed four songs unplugged (three songs and IDK) before giving up. There’s also a Secret Language Instructions and the one time performance of Lullaby of Birdland, both tucked into the first set Bowie. Perhaps wanting to satisfy the fans who had been robbed of their second set in 1992, Phish returned in February 1993 for a three night stand at the Roxy Theater (yup. it’s closed) that really needs no introduction considering there is an official release and everything. Besides, we already covered those amazing shows. All I will say is if you don’t know them already get on it, dude.

 

Don’t worry, we are almost caught up. I can’t be held responsible for the band playing awesome music in this area so often.

 

Later in 1993, in the middle of Summer Tour and on the cusp of what is known to be one of the more important months musically for the band’s future development they played at the Masquerade Music Park on 07.31.1993 for a show that has a big Mike’s Song and the last Leprechaun ever (sad). On 04.23.1994 they played the Fox Theater for the first time, bringing out Col. Bruce Hampton and Merl Saunders in a great one that includes debuts of High Heel Sneakers to close the first set and Who by Fire out of YEM (more of a VJ intonation than anything) not to mention an epic Stash. Around this time (04.26.1994) they also visited Purple Dragon Studios for a promo set supporting the Hoist release, a set that is mostly straight forward by that also includes the singular performance of Sun Ra’s Carefree (a song I still long to hear Phish bring to the big stage). That Fall they played the Atlanta Civic Center (10.25.1994) for one of those great Fall 94 shows, this one highlighted by big takes on Melt and Paug, not to mention a slew of teases and some fine segue work throughout. On 06.15.1995 Phish played Lakewood Amphitheatre (a venue that has seen quite a few name changes in the 20 years the band has been playing there…) for the first time, dropping a wildly psychedelic Stash->IDK (one of the first instances of Mike using a power drill that I know of) and the first of the big time Summer ’95 Bowies. Fall 1995 saw another three night run — this time at the Fox — for three more great shows, first on 11.09.1995 for one that has jam highlights all over (Simple>Reba and the Gin are probably the biggies), then 11.10.1995 which continues the jamming trend (Mule, YEM->Crossroads->YEM, Hood), and finally 11.11.1995 which has big Mike’s Groove elements and fun Ya Mar. Keep in mind that these were the first shows following the triumph that was 10.31.1995 and the energy from that night seemed to carry over to this stand. That gets us up to date for this next Halloween show and I appreciate you bearing with me in getting through all of the varied and wonderful history that the band has in The Big Peach (and Athens!).

 

Now, on to the show!

 

Oh yeah. One more thing before we get going here. If you don’t already have a copy of this show here are a couple of options for you. Since there is an official release, you can always grab it from LivePhish it or listen on the LP+ app if you have that. You can also stream the release on Spotify. There is also some video out there with an incomplete set I and the full set II (note that there are some large gaps in the video that are filled with iconic Phish imagery but that the audio never falters. oh, and don’t mind the shirtless dude in the first row who gets focused on a lot. he was just feeling IT, maaaaaaan. and the audio cuts out during The Overload which kinda sucks but you should be spinning the soundboard for the audio anyway) though I have yet to find anything of set III. There’s also the streaming resources like phish.in, phishtracks.com, and relisten.net but those will be auds and perhaps not quite up to autidory snuff for your needs.

 

1996 marked the third consecutive year that Phish would be playing a “musical costume” for its Halloween show and the first year where the band made the choice without any influence by fan voting. This was also the first year that they produced a Phishbill (see here for a doc that includes all of the phishbills up through 2010), a humorous mock up of a Broadway playbill that included some information on the night to come, an essay by Parke Puterbaugh, and some humorous fake ads referencing Phishy themes. It is all a tongue-in-cheek reference to what you would get when seeing a show in New York City or something at the same time shedding some light on the album they would cover. They have since continued this tradition with the Phishbill effectively confirming what the cover album would be for the night — even though many a wook has decried it as a ruse with the confident stance that they just know, man, that Trey is gonna totally do Zeppelin this year cuz the energy from this new tourmaline I scored is just radiating those vibes to me, man. Dig it?

 

Thankfully for us, we don’t have to sit through the first sets of Halloween shows wondering what the costume might be (I must say, it was a bit distracting wondering about all that 10.31.1995) and we can instead focus entirely on the music at hand. Each of the past two Halloween shows had opened with a nod to the season, first with Frankenstein for the Glens Falls show in 1994 and then with Icculus for the Rosemont Horizon show in 1995. The trend continued here with a Sanity opener (a 43 show bustout) that segues right into a likewise suitable Highway to Hell (41 shows). Nothing like setting the mood with a couple of somewhat unhinged tunes, both which were apparently birthday requests by Brad Sands.. They keep the string going by segueing into Down With Disease, getting the jams going nice and early. Once through the song itself they take the typical Disease jam out for a ride, bringing it to a pocket jam of sorts. Trey and Page flavor this one nicely and even though it is decidedly type I the jam is fresh and novel and could be the best one of the tour to date (it is). Even though he isn’t on stage with them you can almost feel the presence of Karl Perazzo here as the percussive nature of this jam helps to push it forward all while Trey gets his fingers moving and Page gets the boogie going. I am a fan of all of this. The wrap-up then segues right into You Enjoy Myself, a bit of a surprise choice here in song four of the first set. The start is not the cleanest one you will ever hear but once they settle in the nirvana section takes off well. Trey’s solo gets a bit of clap-along-with-Trey to it before the transition to the D&B which tonight is a bit plodding, honestly. If you are into VJs this one is pretty high energy which is always fun in person but can definitely get the heads a scratching upon relisten.

 

We get our first full stop of the night here and looking back you have to wonder what is in store when a set starts out this big. Phish in this era isn’t exactly known for front loading shows so that points to great things, generally. These thoughts maybe took a back seat when the next song starts up as Prince Caspian isn’t exactly the most loved tune in the canon but they do cap it with one of those soaring, peaky finishes that are typical of the ’96 Caspians. They continue on into the start of Reba, first working cleanly through the entirety of the composed bits. The start of the jam is that patient sort of Reba we beg for with a fantastic build towards the peak. Trey is playing ALLTHENOTES but Mike has just as much to say as they take this one for a thrill ride that begs to be played over and over. After this we get to have a bit of Story Time With Trey as they go into Colonel Forbin’s Ascent>Fly Famous Mockingbird for the first time this tour. The songs are about what you’d expect but the story is topical and humorous as our protagonist encounters the David Byrne rock face on his climb of Mt. Icculus whose big shoulders and dance moves swat the Colonel off into the air, only for him to be caught by the evil, death, killing mockingbird who takes Forbin’s eyes. Nice imagery for the spunions, Trey. I’m sure the trip tents were a bit more full this set break than usual. Now on to closer land we get yet another crunchy Character Zero (our seventh Zero already this tour) and then a nice a cappella take on the Star Spangled Banner as they continue to work on this song in advance of performing it at a Minnesota Timberwolves game in a couple of weeks. This provides an oddly fitting cap to a quite explosive first set and now everyone can continue those conversations they started preshow about the relative merits of covering Talking Heads albums and trying to figure out which song on this album was the one with that one video you used to always see on MTV (remember, this was in the years before MTV forgot what their letters stood for).

 

Even in knowing what the album to come would be there is definitely a lot of excitement to be had in wondering how Phish would tackle it. Up to this point they had stuck to costumes a bit more in their classic-rock-fed roots as The White Album is a collection of so many wonderful Beatles’ songs and Quadrophenia is bombastic arena rock (with a theme) to the core. But here was an album of music pretty far afield from anything the band had taken on up to this stage with only one Talking Heads song ever having been covered by Phish prior to this night. That song is Cities, a tune we now hold dear as a song the band does well in making it their own (just listen to the original version as compared to one of the more highly lauded recent takes on it from 08.06.2010 in Berkeley). Now, the original versions Phish played were a bit closer to the original tempo and feel for the song (and the Mike Gordon Band versions of it are very true to the roots of the song – here’s one with Trey from 04.04.2014) but here in 1996 that song had long gone to the shelf with but one performance of it on 07.05.1994 (a unique version that benefits from Trey’s nimble fingers in the end solo bits) since it had last been played on 03.01.1989 (an equally unique version in its own right considering the DEG dropped in the middle of it). Anyway, the song was still a few months away from returning to the Phish fold but that landmark show is for another time and a different tour review. The main point is that at this period in phishtory the majority of the fanbase would have no frame of reference for hearing Phish play this band’s songs short of some hissy late generation tapes or word of mouth.

 

UPDATE/EDIT: Eagle-eyed reader MikeinAustin noted that the band had played another Talking Heads tune prior to this date but I somehow completely forgot that which is odd considering I wrote about it in covering the 03.30.1993 show from Eugene, OR. It is not a complete version, but enough that I should have remembered it. Plus, they have toyed with it since with a VJ on 08.09.1993 in Toronto, ON and quoted in the YEM on 05.23.1994. So yeah. A bit of swiss cheese memory going on for me there. HOWEVER, it still does not change the main point that I was making there above about people not really knowing what to expect with Phish covering the Talking Heads. There may have been a few more people who knew of it occurring though which I think is important to point out. Thanks for catching me on that, MiA. Now back to the review…

 

The second set begins with the band joined on stage by Karl Perazzo (which we now know was part of the plan with his joining the band in Tallahassee) on percussion, Gary Gazaway on trumpet/flugelhorn/trombone, and old friend Dave “The Truth” Grippo on alto saxaphone. The first track of the album, Born Under Punches, provides everyone with our first dose of the varied stylings this set will offer, combining independent yet interlocking parts from each player into a catchy song that is more than the sum of its parts. Phish plays this one true to form, mimicking the album version well while also sounding like Phish the whole time. This serves as set up for the first big moment of the set as they drop into Crosseyed and Painless, a cover tune that fans have come to know and love quite well. This initial version benefits greatly from Perazzo and Fish putting down an addictive beat that the other players match, creating a groove pocket unlike anything Phish has ever done up to this point in their history. Trey and Mike are practically dancing their are so affected by this groove, all while Page and the horn players adding flavorings on top. They carry this groove forward for several minutes before Karl takes a solo, allowing for the transition directly into The Great Curve. A groove monster in its own right, this song hits hard and fast with Page singing the verses all while the frenetic groove takes off. Trey nails the Adrian Belew lines here and when they hit the big chorus the thing pretty well explodes into this joyous ball of energy. Trey goes off again after the chorus playing the guitar god leads we love all while the pocket beneath seems to pulse and flow in a way that almost feels like it is at risk of flying off the tracks into something wholly different. The energy builds to the finish and we finally have our first chance to catch our breath.

 

You can tell the band is feeling it when Fish lets out an audible woo/sigh and Trey hops up and down a few times to release some of the pent up energy. Next up is the most famous song on the album, Once in a Lifetime, the song made popular due the re-release of it in conjunction with the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense and its inclusion on the soundtrack for the movie Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Phish’s take is true to the song (and definitely more practiced than the bustout version they recently played as part of the amazing “THANK YOU” encore on 09.06.2015), eventually coming down to a muted transition point. Next up is Houses in Motion which — similar to the opener Born Under Punches — has lyrics that seem to almost counterpoint the groove they lay down underneath. Grippo gets a couple of solo moments here between the verses and Page layers in more effects while Gazaway throws in some echoed trumpet lines in the back half. Trey gets a Tweezer tease in along the way as this jam goes out for a bit before they make a full segue into Seen and Not Seen, a track that gives Mike his chance to take the lead vocals while sitting in a chair on stage as Trey plays his bass. It is pretty funny to see Mike (in marching red shirt and pants) rocking away in a barcalounger while providing the spoken word to accompany the minimalist groove. That’s something I could see happening in a Phish set without it being a costume which makes it even more humorous to see it in this context. All the while Trey paces back and forth behind him in his gold velour shirt doing those knee bends he tends to do during the YEM D&B section. Eventually Trey hops back on the guitar, putting up some extended notes that offer the opportunity for transition to Listening Wind, an atmospheric song that has nature sound effects, haunting yet lovely lyrics sung primarily by Page, and more of that groove. Here in the back half of the album the songs are more ethereal and the grooves a bit less “punishing” perhaps but the more you listen to these “side B” songs the more you can hear the obvious influence they had on the band, just as much as those in the first half. Just listen to the solo Trey takes at the end of Listening Wind which is made up of sustained, somewhat drone-y notes that work with the groove pocket and sound effects to create the vivid image of the words being sung (check out the words if you have never have). As Trey continues to wail away Fish makes his way to the center stage for The Overload, a song with a somewhat menacing tone that takes things into a darker direction. Trey plays similar lines to what he had going in Listening Wind but Mike is lower down and the overall tone is much more menacing than anything else we have heard thus far. Trey sets a whirling loop and Fish adds in some vac as someone (tour bus driver Dominic Placco) comes on stage to bark out “time to get to work” as he points to various band members and eventually they are all playing different “tools” (Trey on skilsaw, Fish on vac, and Mike on that power drill again) that contribute to the cacophony of machine noises being made. If you watch the video you might even catch Col. Bruce Hampton up there on the jackhammer. Page is still on his rig adding to the whirl but this is post modern Phish here as they have tv screens, the nameless worker overlord, and some repeated sound samples adding to the sensory overload (get it?). As the sounds drop out one my one, the band members leave the stage and our costume set is ended.

 

In the moment it is a wonderful take on a classic album that really deserves your time in its original format as much as here as a cover. This is an important album in the time it was released due to the unique way it melded rock, funk, African polyrhythms, electronic music, sampling, and more in a time when that just wasn’t happening. Brian Eno provided his influence and expertise with other notable guests including Adrian Belew (mentioned previously) and Robert Palmer (yes, that Robert Palmer). While it was not a chart topping record at the time, its influence on music cannot be overstated. Within the context of Phish it stands as a major moment in the band’s history, marking the move from the open psych “precision” to a time where the band focused on creating grooves that allowed for a new way to experiment with their jamming. This is not to say that overnight the band changed completely but from here on out nothing would be quite the same (for better or worse depending who you ask). Heck, even the shows that follow this one on the Fall Tour are mostly still in that 95/96 percussive psych precision phase but as we go forward you will start to get more ‘pocket jams’ and other inklings that this album has laid its influence on the band. And from this night we took one song into the semi-regular rotation as Crosseyed and Painless has now been performed 36 times – with 26 of those coming in 3.0. I personally would love for them to bring The Great Curve back for another dip but as we have seen with every Halloween show played there is usually one and perhaps 1-2 more songs that will get future play from Phish. But short of more songs for the repertoire this costume paid dividends for the band in what they could take from it more than the tracks themselves. Lastly, before we get to the third set I want to give you a link to a quite interesting video from just before the Fall 1998 tour where Phish was interviewed by David Byrne himself for the show that he was the host of, Sessions at West 54th, a PBS series where they would intersperse bits of interview with in studio live performance. This is the raw interview video which includes a lot of stuff not in the final show. There is a section (starting around 25:33 of the raw video) where they discuss Halloween costume albums including the cover of Remain in Light which I think is quite interesting and worthy of your time if you have never checked it out. Knowing that this interview was taped only a couple of weeks prior to their cover of the Velvet Underground’s Loaded (which we have discussed…) adds a bit to me but the salient points here about their intent and takeaways from playing Remain in Light are the main reason for linking this. Enjoy.

 

Geez, we have a third set to go here? <-Easily something you may have overheard at a show before. Okay, well, let’s get to it then…

 

So after the pageantry of the costume set we are back to Phish again but as tends to happen we will have some guests as Karl Perazzo sits in for the entirety and the horn players drop in at the end of the set. First up is a brief Feel Like A Stranger tease by Trey (the only ever to my knowledge) before they crank out a fun Brother to get everyone back in the Phish frame of mind. Next they get a bit funky with 2001, offering a taste of what might be to come for this song while still keeping it truer to the Deodato version than some of the extended workouts we will see in coming years. This segues into Maze for yet another quite engaging Fall ’96 version. Trey shreds the crap out of this one and the addition of more percussion only serves to amp this one up more than normal. While perhaps not as big as the one earlier this tour from Pittsburgh, this is a solid take on the straight ahead jammer. Now we have Simple which in three previous performances this tour has proved itself to be one to keep tabs on each and every time. The prior versions had sections of percussive jamming as Trey hopped on the mini-kit for a bit in each one but tonight’s takes it to another level as Fish and Perazzo pound away, allowing Trey to stay at home on the guitar. There is a Mama Told Me Not to Come tease to be found amongst the rhythmic groove here as well. In a show where it becomes difficult to pick out the real peak jams because everything is played well this one stands out. They execute a great move into Steep>Swept Away for the second time this tour, playing that pairing as you know it before seemingly suddenly arriving in the bustout of Jesus Just Left Chicago, last played one year prior during the third set of 10.31.1995. Dave Grippo and Gary Gazaway come out here and add in to the bluesy jam as everyone takes a turn at a solo. This bleeds into Suzy Greenberg, easily one of the most horns-friendly tunes Phish has ever written (personally, I insert the horn lines in my head pretty much every time I hear it). This is a similar pairing as that last Halloween show except for the ADITL they sandwiched in there in 1995 as these two tunes seem to be becoming the de facto post-costume-get-the-horn-section-involved songs for the third set. Tonight’s Suzy goes away from the typical rocking peaky take for a bit as the horn players influence things in a jazzy manner but in the end it is good times Suzy bringing the party home once more. Following the encore break we get the seasonally appropriate Frankenstein to cap this show (a full mirror to last year’s Halloween which opened with Frank), sending everyone out into the night with one last bit of rocking the heck out.

 

I’ve spent a lot of time (and words) discussing this one so I won’t belabor the point too much further but I think it is pretty obvious how important this show was to the future development of Phish. By no means am I suggesting that they needed this impetus to push them forward as there were no signs of stagnation coming into this night. They were already riding the crest of a peak year (’95) to take on new challenges including their first festival, a well received album, and more. This moment simply provided them with another avenue to explore, one which they have taken and made a part of who they are as a band. Never before had Phish grooved like this. Never before had they mixed musical styles as fluidly as what this new way of playing allowed for. But all through it they are still Phish and sound like no other band in the world. I had a hard time cutting the highlights list for this show down to a respectable size but that’s what you get with a canonical performance. So with that in mind your takeaways are:  Disease, Reba, C&P, The Great Curve, Houses in Motion, Simple, and Suzy with honorable mentions including Forbin>Mockingbird, Born Under Punches, Listening Wind, and perhaps Caspian if we are feeling gracious.

 

I apologize for this post taking as long as it did but hopefully my words make up for that. I really enjoyed re-spinning this show a few times to make sure I got a lot of the necessary nuance. We will start cruising again here shortly with a couple more Perazzo Phish shows before we head to some seriously crushing Phish in the Midwest portion of the tour. As always, the takeaway tracks are now part of the playlist in the sidebar.